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When you encounter any kind of source, consider:
- Authority - Who is the author? What is their point of view?
- Purpose - Why was the source created? Who is the intended audience?
- Publication & format - Where was it published? In what medium?
- Relevance - How is it relevant to your research? What is its scope?
- Date of publication - When was it written? Has it been updated?
- Documentation - Did they cite their sources? Who did they cite?
A LibGuide from Berkeley Library (University of California)
Scholarly and Popular Sources: Evaluation Resources (University of California, Berkeley Library)
Check also Simmons College Library Evaluating Sources: This guide contains how to evaluate news sources, blogs, open access journals, and social media.
- Who is the author?
- What else has the author written?
- In which communities and contexts does the author have expertise?
- Does the author represent a particular set of world views?
- Do they represent specific gender, sexual, racial, political, social and/or cultural orientations?
- Do they privilege some sources of authority over others?
- Do they have a formal role in a particular institution (e.g. a professor at Oxford)?
- Why was this source created?
- Does it have an economic value for the author or publisher?
- Is it an educational resource? Persuasive?
- What (research) questions does it attempt to answer?
- Does it strive to be objective?
- Does it fill any other personal, professional, or societal needs?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is it for scholars?
- Is it for a general audience?
Publication & format
- Where was it published?
- Was it published in a scholarly publication, such as an academic journal?
- Who was the publisher? Was it a university press?
- Was it formally peer-reviewed?
- Does the publication have a particular editorial position?
- Is it generally thought to be a conservative or progressive outlet?
- Is the publication sponsored by any other companies or organizations? Do the sponsors have particular biases?
- Were there any apparent barriers to publication?
- Was it self-published?
- Were there outside editors or reviewers?
- Where, geographically, was it originally published, and in what language?
- In what medium?
- Was it published online or in print? Both?
- Is it a blog post? A YouTube video? A TV episode? An article from a print magazine?
- What does the medium tell you about the intended audience?
- What does the medium tell you about the purpose of the piece?
- How is it relevant to your research?
- Does it analyze the primary sources that you're researching?
- Does it cover the authors or individuals that you're researching, but different primary texts?
- Can you apply the authors' frameworks of analysis to your own research?
- What is the scope of coverage?
- Is it a general overview or an in-depth analysis?
- Does the scope match your own information needs?
- Is the time period and geographic region relevant to your research?
Date of Publication
- When was the source first published?
- What version or edition of the source are you consulting?
- Are there differences in editions, such as new introductions or footnotes?
- If the publication is online, when was it last updated?
- What has changed in your field of study since the publication date?
- Are there any published reviews, responses or rebuttals?
- Did they cite their sources?
- If not, do you have any other means to verify the reliability of their claims?
- Who do they cite?
- Is the author affiliated with any of the authors they're citing?
- Are the cited authors part of a particular academic movement or school of thought?
- Look closely at the quotations and paraphrases from other sources:
- Did they appropriately represent the context of their cited sources?
- Did they ignore any important elements from their cited sources?
- Are they cherry-picking facts to support their own arguments?
- Did they appropriately cite ideas that were not their own?
Adapted from the University of California (Berkeley Library) This work is created under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License from the UC Berkeley Library.