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College Writing: Official Guide

Evaluating Sources

During the research process you will need to evaluate the extent to which the author's perspective or the format in which the information is presented plays a role in quality, relevance, authority, and reliability of a source.

You might already have criteria that you use to evaluate a source. How do you know if a source is credible, authoritative, and relevant?

Other questions you might ask yourself (1): 

  1. Who is the author (or creator) of this source? What other works has this person/creator produced? What can you find out about this person(s)/organization? (Keep in mind that an author's/creator's expertise on a given subject may be derived from education, position in society, experience, or other factors.)

  2. For what purpose was this information created and who is the intended audience?

  3. What methods were used to produce the information in this source and when was it produced?

  4. Does this author/source seem to be “in conversation” with other works? In what way might other conversations impact the information in this source?

  5. What perspectives or which voices might be missing from this source? Why might these have been excluded?

Questions from this link:

Scholarly vs. Popular

Criteria Scholarly Article                                                          Popular Article


Authors are scholars and experts in the field. Authors are always named, and their institutional affiliation is given.    

Authors are staff writers or journalists.


Publishers may be university presses or professional associations. Articles may be edited through the peer-review process by scholars in the same field of study.

Publishers are corporations, working for profit.


Articles are longer with a focus on research projects, methodology and theory. Language is more formal, technical, using discipline specific terminology.


Articles may be shorter with a general focus on the topic and written for news or entertainment value.

Sources Cited


Sources are cited and a bibliography or footnotes provided to document the research.

Sources are not usually cited.


Article may include these sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and a bibliography.   

Specific format is not followed.


Audience consists of academics, scholars, researchers, and professionals.

Audience is the general public.
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