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Phoenix: Evaluating Sources

What to sign up for and how, assignment related suggestions, and general information

Why evaluate?

Quality of information is only as good as the source where you find it.

High quality information will always benefit your academic and professional career.

No standards exist to ensure the quality and accuracy of information on a web page.

Anyone can create and publish an Internet site, regardless of subject expertise or knowledge

Web page creation software makes it easy for anyone to create a professional looking web page

Print and online resources are often created to persuade the reader.

Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

Scholarly articles – written by experts in the field. These experts will spend months or years researching prior to publishing an article. The purpose of a scholarly article is to publicize a discovery or inform colleagues

Popular articles – written by journalists. The author will a few weeks or days researching an article. The purpose of a popular article is to entertain their customers.

Why can't I cite Wikipedia in my paper?

There are several reasons why you should not (and usually cannot) cite Wikipedia.

For starters, according to their site "Wikipedia is not considered a credible source."



Does Wikipedia have a place in education? Yes...sort of.  



We advise special caution when using Wikipedia as a source for research projects. Normal academic usage of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias is for getting the general facts of a problem and to gather keywords, references and bibliographical pointers, but not as a source in itself. Remember that Wikipedia is a wiki, which means that anyone in the world can edit an article, deleting accurate information or adding false information, which the reader may not recognize.

For a humorous take on editing Wikipedia entries, please see the Colbert Report clip on the topic.

Evaluating Sources Tutorial from Vaughan Memorial Library

Permission of use granted by Vaughan Memorial LibraryPermission of use granted by Vaughan Memorial Library

More Evaluation Tools

Medical Library Association | Resources : A User's Guide to Finding and Evaluating Health Information on the Web
A detailed guide to finding and evaluating health information on the web. Includes the MLA "Top 10" recommended websites for consumer health, cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Alexa The Web Information Company
Analytics for any website. View traffic details, ownership information for the domain name, "related links" to other sites visted by people who visited the page, and sites linking to the page.

Recognizing a scholarly resource

5 Rules for Website Evaluation

1.       Who is/are the author(s)?

A credible source is either written by the author(s) with a degree or other credentials or can be written by an organization.  If no author or organization is named, the source will not be viewed as credible.

2.       Does the source provide references?

Credible authors will cite their sources for accuracy of and support for what they have written.  Citing other reliable sources is a sign of credibility.  This is also a good way to find more sources for your own research.

3.       How recent is the source?

Seeking recent sources depends on your topic.  While sources on past wars may be decades old and still contain accurate information, sources on information technologies, or other areas that are experiencing rapid changes, need to be much more current.

4.       What is the author’s purpose?

When deciding which sources to use, you should take the purpose or point of view of the author into consideration.  Is the author presenting a neutral, unbiased view of a topic or is the author supporting one side of a topic?  You need to be careful that your sources do not limit your coverage of a topic to one side of a debate.

5.       Who is your intended audience?

If you are writing for professional or academic audience, peer-reviewed journals are seen as one of the most credible sources of information.


Be careful when evaluating Internet sources!

Never use a website where an author cannot be determined, unless the site is associated with a reputable institution such as a respected university, a credible media outlet (e.g. CBS & CNN), government program or department, or well-known non-governmental organizations.  Beware of using sites like Wikipedia, which are collaboratively developed by users who can add or change content.  The validity of information on such sites may not meet the standards for academic research.

Have a Question? We are here to help!

You can also reach us by calling the LRC. For IM chat click on the AskUs button.

Please state your location/campus in the email.

The C.R.A.P. Test

Is the information recent enough for your topic?

  • Has it been published in the last x years?
  • If you have a historical research topic, was it published around the date of the original event?

Does the information apply to your topic?

  • Does all of the information apply to your topic? or only part of it?
  • Is the information general or detailed?
  • Is the information balanced or biased?

Who authored this information?

  • Was it a single person or several people?
  • Was it a corporation or organization?Are their credentials provided?
  • What is their reputation or expertise?

Where does the information come from?

  • Who published the information?
  • Was it peer-reviewed?
  • Is it a primary or secondary source?
  • Are methods or refrences provided?

What was the intent of the author, and how is the author connected to the information?

  • Who is the intened audience?
  • Is the information intended to inform, persuade, sell, entertain,...?
  • Is this a first-hand account of an event or research?
  • Does the author have a vested interest in the topic?
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