How do you know if you have a "good source"?
Use the criteria below to determine the quality of ALL YOUR SOURCES
(books, articles, videos, audio programs, and especially websites...etc.)
If your source fails to meet a lot of the criteria listed below, look for another, better source.
Authority / Credibility
Determining the author for a source is important in deciding whether information is credible. The author should show some evidence of being knowledgeable, reliable and truthful.
- Who is the author (person, company, or organization)?
- Is the author reputable or well-known? (what is their experience, expertise, education, knowledge or lived experience)?
- Does the author provide citations as to where they obtained their own information?
- For websites, do sections like "About Us" or "Who We Are" give you more detailed information about the organization or author?
The source should contain accurate and up-to-date information that can be verified by other sources.
- Can facts or statistics be verified through another source?
- Based on your knowledge, does the information seem accurate? Does it match the information found in other sources?
- Are there spelling or grammatical errors?
- For websites, do other reliable websites link to this one?
Scope / Relevance
It is important that the source meets the information needs and requirements of your research assignment.
- Does the source cover your topic comprehensively or does it cover only one aspect?
- To what extent does the source answer your research question?
- Is the source considered popular or scholarly?
- Is the terminology and language used easy to understand?
Currency / Date
Some written works are ageless (e.g., classic literature) while others (e.g., technological news) become outdated quickly. It is important to determine if currency is pertinent to your research.
- When was the source written and published?
- Has the information been updated recently?
- Is currency important to your research?
Objectivity / Bias / Reliability
Every author has an opinion. Recognizing this is instrumental in determining if the information presented is objective or biased.
- Why is this information being published? Who benefits?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Can you determine if the author or organization has a particular political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?
- What is the purpose of the information? To inform, teach, sell, entertain, persuade?
- For web sources, what is the domain (.edu, .gov, .com, .org, .net)?
Style / Functionality
Style and functionality may be of lesser concern. However, if the source is not well-organized, its value is diminished.
- Is the source well-written and organized?
- To what extent is it professional looking?
- For websites, can you navigate around easily?
- For websites, are links broken?