ENGL 101 English Composition 1 (Bartley)

Evaluate your sources


Not all resources are created equal! There are a number of criteria to consider when determining whether or not a source is reliable (able to be trusted) and appropriate for your academic work.

  • Who is the author?
  • What makes the author an expert in the field he or she is writing about? What are his or her qualifications? Does he or she have education or work experience in the field? Has he or she published anything else about the subject? (HINT: Google the name of the author to find this information).
  • If there isn't an author listed, is the information authored by a government, corporate, or non-profit agency?  Is the agency or organization recognized in the field in which you are studying, and is it suitable to address your topic?
Point of View or Bias
  • Does the source promote one point of view or one agenda?
  • Is the information provided as fact or opinion?
  • If the information is found online, does the Web site have advertisements? If so, are the ads part of or separate from the rest of the site?
  • Does your topic require current information?
  • Does the source include a date of publication or a "last updated" date?
References to Other Sources
  • Does the source include a bibliography or links to other web sites?
  • What types of sources are cited (primary/secondary, popular/scholarly, current/historical, etc.)
Relevance to Topic and Assignment
  • Is the information you found related to and useful for your topic and assignment?
  • Is the source the appropriate type for your needs?  For example, do you need a book or a scholarly journal article? Do you need primary or secondary sources of information?
  • Is the information too broad or too specific?

Image source:  "Evaluation" by NY is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Video: Different source types

03 - Types of Information from Joshua Vossler on Vimeo.

Source: "Types of information" by Joshua Vossler, Joshua Vossler, Educational use.

Information Timeline

Information Timeline

Information is created and shared across various mediums and at different times after an initial event takes place.

(Click on image to enlarge)

information timeline graphic

Source: "Information Timeline" by QCCLibrary, educational use

After an event occurs, you can look to…

Social Media sources
  • within minutes – here social media platforms “breaks” the story. Info may be incomplete, false, or biased.
  • Examples: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Blogs, etc.
News sites, TC, Radio & Daily Newspapers
  • within days – As time passes, info gets added, updated and verified. Opinions emerge. Examples: cnn.com, BBC radio, New York Times, etc.
Weekly magazines
  • within a week – These offer more insight, likely to include context info, interviews, related topics.
  • Examples: Newsweek, Time, People, The New Yorker
Monthly magazines
  • within a month – additional time allows for better reporting. May include opinions.
  • Example: Time, People Magazine, Wired, National Geographic, Scientific American
Scholarly journals
  • Within 3+ months – written by experts, well-researched and objective.
  • Examples: Journal of American Culture, Nature, JAMA
  • Within 12+ months – benefits most from hindsight. Gives most in-depth coverage of a topic.
  • Examples: non-fiction titles, textbooks, reference materials, etc