Evaluating the quality of sources

Before using a source in your research, you should consider if it is a quality source of information. Use the categories and questions below to help you evaluate sources that you find on the web or other locations.


Accuracy and quality refer to the correctness, truthfulness, and overall excellence of the information. Consider these questions:

  • Is the information logical, well-organized, and supported by evidence?
  • Has it been edited or peer reviewed?
  • Is it free from errors – both content errors and spelling/grammar errors?
  • If it's a website, is it professional in appearance? Has time and care gone into its presentation?


Authority refers to the author or other source of the information. Consider these questions:

  • Who is the author? What are the author's credentials? With which organizations is the author affiliated? Has biographical information been provided? Has the author supplied his/her contact information?
  • What is the publisher or sponsoring organization? Sometimes the authority comes not from a single author, but from a reputable organization or publisher.
  • If it's a website, what does the URL ending reveal about the source (e.g., .gov indicates a government source)?


Purpose refers to the reason for which the author has produced the information, and objectivity refers to a straight presentation of information without prejudice. Consider these questions:

  • What is the author or producer's goal or intention? What are you being sold?
  • Does the information consist mostly of facts or does it contain opinion? Is the author upfront about stating any affiliations of importance? If the information contains an argument or opinion, then are opposing arguments or opinions recognized and addressed?
  • Is the author biased in his/her views? Or does the author present information in a way that is fair and balanced? Does the source contain strong language or images designed to arouse certain emotions? Is the author making assumptions that are having an effect on the fair presentation of information?


Corroboration and coverage refer to the thoroughness and consistency of the information. Consider these questions:

  • Does the source contain enough information? Is it thorough?
  • Does it reference other sources? If so, can you look at the original sources and verify them?
  • Does it build on what has come before? If it's a website, does it contain appropriate links to other information?
  • Is it consistent with other information? Does it confirm what you know or have read about in other sources?


Currency refers to whether the information has been recently produced. Consider these questions:

  • When was the information published? How important is recent information to your topic? How far back in time is acceptable? Your professor may require you to only examine sources published within the last five or ten years. You can filter to a desired date range in Library Search and many library databases.
  • If it is a website, has it been updated since its original publication? Do the links work? Is it a "current" looking page?


Relevance refers to how well the source meets your information needs. Consider these questions:

  • How closely does the source relate to your topic? If you’re interested in researching the effects of a vegan diet on household pets, articles about the effects of a vegan diet on humans is not as relevant, even though both concern veganism.
  • At what level has the information been produced? For what kind of audience has the information been created? You don’t want to use information that is too far below or above your level (e.g., for children).
  • How many other sources have you looked at? If you stop at the first two or three sources you find, then you may not be getting the most relevant information. It will also be more difficult for you to evaluate the quality of a source without a frame of reference, unless you already know a lot about a given topic.