Use the six criteria on this page to evaluate sources and determine whether they are reliable enough to be used for research.
Consult these video tutorials to see examples of how these criteria can be applied to different kinds of sources:
Accuracy and quality refer to the correctness, truthfulness, and overall excellence of the information. To determine a source's accuracy and quality, ask these questions:
TIP: The peer-review process used by many scholarly journals is designed to guarantee a certain amount of accuracy and quality in the publication of scholarly information.
Authority refers to the author or other source of the information. To determine a source's authority, consider the answers to these questions:
TIP: If the source is a webpage, you may have to look around to find information about authorship. Try scrolling down to the bottom or the page or clicking on the "About" link to learn more about the site. Also, keep in mind that many professors will not accept Wikipedia as an authoritative source of information.
Purpose refers to the reason for which the author has produced the information, and objectivity refers to a straight presentation of information without prejudice. To determine a source's purpose and objectivity, consider the answers to these questions:
TIP: It's OK to use information sources that contain strong arguments or opinions, but it's always best to acknowledge the author's perspective.
Corroboration and coverage refer to the thoroughness and consistency of the information. To determine a source's corroboration and coverage, consider the answers to these questions:
TIP: Looking at the list of references in a source is an excellent way of not only understanding a work's coverage but also finding other excellent sources of research.
Currency refers to the time that the information was produced. To determine a source's currency, consider the answers to these questions:
TIP: For certain topics you might be able to use information that was published long ago, but for many contemporary, scientific, or health-related topics, you’ll probably want to use information that was published recently.
Relevance refers to how well the source meets your information needs. To determine a source's relevance, consider the answers to these questions:
TIP: When searching for information, it’s important to remember that all of the information that you use should closely address your topic. If it only barely touches on your topic, then it’s probably not something that you should use.