The following list will assist you in evaluating sources:
- Quality of the resource: Is the resource free of spelling, grammatical, factual errors, formal vs. informal language?
- Cited sources: Does the source provide a list of their sources? Note that some resources, such as newspaper articles or magazine articles typically do not cite their sources. In this case, use the other criteria to determine reliability. You will have to determine if a newspaper or magazine article is an appropriate source for your paper.
- Author's credibility: What is his/her expertise on the topic? Have he/she written about this topic before? Does he/she have an advanced degree (such as a Master's, J.D., or Ph.D) in the discipline? Do other authors refer back to this author? What is he/she reputation?
- Publisher credibility: Was the book or article published by a university press? Examples include Oxford University Press, Harvard University Press, MIT Press, University of Nebraska, etc. If it was a university press, then it most likely a peer reviewed source, which means that other experts, the author's peers, reviewed and evaluated the piece before it was published. Books and articles published by popular presses or published in popular magazines may also have respectable reputations, but their purpose is to reach a general audience and not to communicate scholarship, so you will have to decide if those resources would be the most appropriate for your research.
- Objectivity: Is this resource biased? Are the opinions supported by evidence? Are the writer's opinions based on fact (supported by evidence) or is he/she opinion based on emotions or untested ideas? Is this piece presenting a verifiable perspective or is it propaganda?
- Currency: How current is the information? Could there be more current information?
- Determine the information you need: Do you require a brief overview of a topic? Or, do you need more detailed, extensive information? If you only need a brief account or overview, a newspaper or an entry in a reference book may be sufficient, but if you are writing a research paper, you may need to located academic sources, such as a peer-reviewed article or book.