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ENGL 1020: Research & Argumentative Writing: Evaluating Sources

What does it mean to evaluate your sources?

When you evaluate your sources, you are asking yourself many different questions. Is this source appropriate to my needs?  Is this source accurate? Does it have a particular bias? Do I need something current or historical? Do I need broad information or something very specific? Scholarly or popular sources? 

Both the library and the web contain many useful sources, and also many sources that are not appropriate to your research needs. 

SIFT: Evaluating Web Content

YouTube Link (length: 4:27)

SIFT stands for:


Investigate the Source

Find Better Coverage

Trace Claims, Quotes, and Media Back to their Original Context

More about SIFT

Source Types

What types of sources do you need? Books, articles, newspapers, websites? It depends on what type of research you're doing. 

Fact Checking Websites

Quick Website Evaluation Checklist

1.  Who is responsible for the website? What are the credentials for those responsible? Do they have the proper training and background to present reliable and accurate information? Is there contact information?

2.  Has the web site been active for a number of years? Has the website been updated recently? Is the information current?

3.  What is the purpose of the website? Is it to inform, persuade, sell, raise funds, amuse, etc.?

4.  Is the information on the website covered in depth or is it just an overview? 

5.  Is the information presented objectively or does it argue a specific point of view?

6.  And the most important point in evaluating a website is.....the relevance to what you need for your own research.

These questions are often called the CRAAP test: Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy and Purpose.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary Sources are first-hand accounts of events, topics, historical periods. Some examples include diaries, speeches, photographs, articles reporting original research, and most newspaper articles.

Secondary Sources interpret, critique, or analyze primary sources. Some examples include textbooks, essays or reviews, some newspaper articles, and encyclopedias. 

More about Primary Sources

Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

Scholarly Articles: Written by and for an expert audience. Also frequently called "peer-reviewed" publications. 

Popular Articles: Written by journalists for a general readership.

Both can be valuable, depending on your need.

More information about scholarly and popular sources

Understanding Publication Bias

Many publications operate from a particular political stance or bias, though this can change over time due to editorial leadership.  This bias can impact how or if an event is reported.

Ad Fontes Media Bias Chart (as of August 2022)

Wikipedia CAN be Useful (but don't cite it directly)

(video link)

More about Wikipedia