Skip to Main Content

Evaluating Information Sources: Home


We live in a time when virtually anyone can publish virtually anything they want on the internet, regardless of if the information they're spreading is valid, truthful, or accurate.  Because of this, each of us must be vigilant, evaluating the information we consume to ensure that it is factual and legitimate. This is of even more importance when doing scholarly research and writing. A research project built upon poor quality information will, itself, be of poor quality. Or as is the saying in programming, "Garbage In, Garbage Out." This guide contains resources and tips on how to effectively and efficiently evaluate the information you use for your research.

Cognitive Authority

When we decide (whether consciously or subconsciously) to believe a piece of information we consume, we are granting that information COGNITIVE AUTHORITY. But many information sources you come across will not be worthy of this status. This is why evaluating sources is so important. Make sure that a source is factual, accurate, and created by someone with expertise and credibility in the field. That way, it's earned the cognitive authority you grant it.

This video discusses concepts of academic authority, why it's important to locate authoritative sources for your work, and how you can assess the authority of the materials you use:

Quick Guide to Evaluating Sources

When you encounter any kind of source, scholarly or popular, consider the following:

  • Authority - Who is the author? What is their point of view? What are their credentials in this field?
  • Purpose - Why was the source created? Who is the intended audience?
  • Publication & format - Where was it published? In what medium (scholarly journal? popular magazine? blog?)
  • Relevance - How is it relevant to your research? What is its scope?
  • Date of publication - When was it written? Has it been updated since then?
  • Documentation - Did they cite their sources? Who did they cite?

In-Depth Guide to Evaluating Sources


  • Who is the author and what else have they written?
  • In which communities and contexts does the author have expertise?
    • Do they represent a specific world view, such as gender, sexual, racial, political, social and/or cultural orientations?
    • Do they have a formal role in a particular institution (e.g. a professor at Harvard)?


  • Why was this source created?
    • Does it have an economic value for the author or publisher?
    • Is it an educational resource?
      • What (research) questions does it attempt to answer?
      • Does it strive to be objective?
  • Who is the intended audience?
    • Is it for scholars or a general audience?

Publication & Format

  • Was it published in a scholarly publication, such as an academic journal, a commercial press, or was it self-published?
    • If academic, was it formally peer reviewed?
  • Does the publication have a particular editorial position, such as a conservative or progressive bent?
    • Is the publication sponsored by any other companies or organizations? If so, do the sponsors have particular biases or leanings?
  • In what medium was it published? Online, print, or 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 piece's intended audience and purpose?


  • How is it relevant to your research?
  • What is the scope of the 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?
    • 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 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?
    • Are they cherry-picking facts to support their own arguments?
    • Did they appropriately cite ideas that were not their own?


This section is based upon the Evaluating Resources guide by the University of California-Berkeley Library, thoughtfully provided under the Creative Commons NonCommercial 4.0 License.


Crumb Library: 315-267-2485
Crane Library: 315-267-2451

Text Us!: 315-277-3730

Social Media

College Libraries


SUNY Potsdam College Libraries
44 Pierrepont Ave
Potsdam, NY 13676