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RWS Library Instruction Review

Links and more information about library resources

How do you evaluate a source?

How do you evaluate a source?

It's important to evaluate the quality of the sources you use in research.  There are plenty of sources that are a bad fit for your research purpose. For example, Wikipedia is a great place to start, and a horrible place to stop. Even Wikipedia says so!


So how do you evaluate a source?  Is there a difference between evaluating print and online sources? 

When evaluating a source, you will go through a similar process for both print and online. The criteria can be applied equally across print and digital sources, although the application may be a little different (journal vs. website for example).

For websites and online resources, we highly recommend incorporating the SIFT method onto your everyday life. 

You can use several different frameworks to evaluate the quality of the sources you use in research.  SDSU Library recommends students apply the ACT UP evaluation criteria:   Read through the evaluation criteria to see how to apply it to the sources you are considering choosing for your research.

ACT UP Method

 Author: Who wrote the resource?

  • Who are they?
  • Background information matters.

Currency: When was this resource written?

  • When was this resource written?
  • When was it published?
  • Does this resource fit into the currency of your topic?

Truth: How accurate is this information?

  • Can you verify any of the claims in other sources?
  • Are there typos and spelling mistakes?

Unbiased: Is the information presented to sway the audience to a particular point of view?

  • Is information left out in order to adhere to a specific viewpoint?
  • Resources unless otherwise stated should be impartial.

Privilege: Check the privilege of the author(s).

  • Are they the only folks who might write or publish on this topic?
  • Who is missing in this conversation?
  • Critically evaluate the subject terms associated with each resource you found.
  • How are they described?
  • What are the inherent biases?

Still confused about evaluating resources? Watch the videos below.