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New College Writing Program Library Guide

ASU Library Evaluating Sources Tutorial

Evaluating Sources - Overview

Evaluating the sources you are finding is an essential part of the research and writing process, and one of the main reasons putting together a research based project is recursive. That is, at any point in the research process, you may find a need to change your research question based on the information you are finding and retrieving. To that end, we recommend that you consider the following when evaluating your sources: 

1. Credibility: Who wrote it? What credentials does the author (or authors) hold? Who published the work? Is the work self-published, published by a university press, large corporation, or what? 

2. Audience: Who is the text written for? A general audience? A specialized audience? How do you know? Will the focus work for your topic? For your purpose? 

3. Support: Look at the bibliography and footnotes. What: there isn’t a bibliography? If the author does not provide support of his or her own, what evidence do you have that the work is reliable? How will you use the information? 

4. Objectivity: Does the text appear biased or is the author attempting to be fair? 

5. Newness: When was the text published? Is the information current or out-of-date? 

Reading Critically

Reading critically (summary from How to Read Academic Texts Critically)

  • Who is the author? His/her standing in the field.
  • What is the author’s purpose? Offer advice, make practical suggestions, solve a specific problem, to critique or clarify?
  • Note the experts in the field: are there specific names/labs that are frequently cited?
  • Pay attention to methodology: is it sound? what testing procedures, subjects, materials were used?
  • Note conflicting theories, methodologies and results. Are there any assumptions being made by most/some researchers?
  • Theories: have they evolved overtime?
  • Evaluate and synthesize the findings and conclusions. How does this study contribute to your project?

Across the articles that you read, what are the:

  • Common/contested findings
  • Important trends
  • Influential theories.

Evaluating Primary Sources on the Internet

Evaluating Primary Source Sites on the Internet

Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using (ALA/RUSA) 

Getting Started with Primary Sources (Library of Congress)

How To Read a Primary Source (University of Iowa)  

Guidelines for Evaluating Historical Websites

Who: Who is the author or sponsor of the website? Is that person or organization named? Is any supporting documentation available?

What: What is the mission or purpose of the website? Is it clearly articulated? What kinds of materials are on the website? Are they properly cited and acknowledged? What is the document format on the web?

Where: Where is the site located? Is there a physical address with phone number and email address for a contact person? Does the site have a .edu, .org, or .com address?

Why: Why does the site exist? Does it have a point of view or opinion? Is it pedagogical or polemic? Does it want something from you?

Useful Links

Useful Sites

Reading Critically (Harvard University) -- This link addresses six reading habits imperative to successful academic habits.

How to read a Paper (University of Waterloo, Canada): This is an excellent paper that teach you how to read an academic paper, how to determine if it is something to set aside, or something to read deeply. Good advice to organize your literature for the Literature Review or just reading for classes.

Tips to Evaluate Sources

Criteria to evaluate sources:

  • Authority: Who is the author? what is his/her credentials--what university he/she is affiliated? Is his/her area of expertise?
  • Usefulness: How this source related to your topic? How current or relevant it is to your topic?
  • Reliability: Does the information comes from a reliable, trusted source such as an academic journal?


Useful sites

The ASU Library acknowledges the twenty-three Native Nations that have inhabited this land for centuries. Arizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) Indian Communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. ASU Library acknowledges the sovereignty of these nations and seeks to foster an environment of success and possibility for Native American students and patrons. We are advocates for the incorporation of Indigenous knowledge systems and research methodologies within contemporary library practice. ASU Library welcomes members of the Akimel O’odham and Pee Posh, and all Native nations to the Library.