Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources

How can you be sure the information you're using is accurate, reliable and unbiased? Consider these elements when evaluating information:

Is it fact or opinion?
Facts are always reliable and very useful for research. Opinions can be useful for a topic like "college professors' perceptions of facebook". Both can be used in research, but it depends on the paper topic. When in doubt, check with your instructor!

Who wrote it?
Not everyone is qualified to write about a given topic, so consider who the author is.

  • Is the author qualified/experienced in the subject area?
  • Is the organization a reputable business?
  • Are they respected or disrespected in their field?

When was it written?
Be aware if your topic needs recent/updated sources or if older/historical sources are acceptable.

  • Is it a topic that frequently changes (like technology)?
  • Will the information remain unchanged (like the civil war)?
  • Is it a website that is updated regularly? Are links still active?

Is it biased?
Certain publications might be biased, or skewed, to favor the person or organization publishing it.

  • Is the site trying to sell you something?
  • Does the author argue for one side only?
  • Would the organization gain profit from the publication?