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First Year Seminar Support Guide: Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Information

Evaluate sources before committing to them, but this doesn’t have to be time consuming. Ask yourself two questions: Is the source trustworthy? And is the source suitable? Not every suitable source is trustworthy, and not every trustworthy source is suitable.

Determining Suitability

Consider the following: will this source help me answer the research questions that I am posing in my project? Will it help me learn as much as I can about my topic? Will it help me write an interesting, convincing essay for my readers? 

Determining Trustworthiness

Trustworthiness of sources may not be as easy to determine, especially if you’re in a hurry, aren’t paying attention, or haven’t kept an open mind and/or acknowledged your own biases. Pay attention to things like:

  • When the source was published / last updated - look for the most recent research on your topic but it could be acceptable to use older material.
  • The degree of bias in the source - is the author making an attempt to stay objective and include various points of view?
  • Whether or not the author supports what they’re saying with evidence - if the author makes claims without citing them, find something else. (Source)

Evaluating Sources for Credibility Video (3:14)

Evaluation Strategy: Lateral Reading

Lateral reading is a quick and easy way to evaluate sources, especially ones you find on the open internet. This short video explains what lateral reading is and how to do it. It's a strategy that can even be useful in your everyday life.


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A Note about Wikipedia

Wikipedia is rarely an acceptable source to cite in a college research paper. However, Wikipedia is a wonderful source for background information about research topics and a source for some of the research already done on certain topics.  


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Laura Langberg