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Criteria for Evaluating Information Sources

Evaluating information sources


  • Is the source authoritative?
    • Author is an expert in the field
    • Author has knowledge based on education or experience
  • Is the source reliable?
    • Author cites authoritative sources on the topic
    • Publisher has a reputation for accurate and complete information


  • What kind of information is presented?
    • Overview or survey of the topic
    • Facts and statistics
    • Research report; research-based article or book
    • Opinion or based on personal experience
    • Critique, analysis, or review
  • How well is it presented?
    • Information is well organized
    • Spelling and grammar are correct
    • Menu, table of contents, index, or section headings to help in locating specific information
    • Illustrations and tables are appropriate and useful


  • What is the purpose of the source?
    • Educate and inform
    • Entertain
    • Persuade
    • Market a product or service
  • What point of view is presented?
    • Fact-based; objective
    • Examines various sides of an issue fairly
    • Favors a particular outcome, cause, or candidate
    • Attempts to convince you to a certain way of thinking about the topic


  • When was the source published or created?
    • Covers current events
    • Includes background on the topic
    • Provides historical coverage
  • Has it been updated or revised?
    • Includes latest research findings
    • Describes new discoveries or techniques
    • Citations and links include up-to-date sources

Can I use this source?

  • Does this source fit the criteria required for the assignment, such as publication date or type of source?
  • Does this source offer a point of view that supports or challenges my argument?
  • Does this source use language and terminology that I understand?


  • Schedule an appointment with a Librarian to learn more about evaluating sources

Evaluating Sources: Magazines & Journals


  • A collection of scholarly articles, printed or online
  • Articles report on research in a particular field
  • Authors are experts in their field
  • Articles are peer-reviewed. Experts in the same field as the author review and evaluate the paper being considered for publication
  • Articles include notes and citations
  • Articles use the terminology of the field


  • A collection of articles, printed or online
  • Articles are meant to inform and entertain
  • Authors are staff members or free-lance writers
  • Articles are not peer-reviewed and do not include citations
  • Articles include illustrations and photographs
  • Articles are written for a general audience

Trade Magazine

  • A collection of articles, printed or online
  • Articles cover news and give practical information on an industry or trade
  • Authors are specialists in their industry or trade
  • Articles are written for people in the industry
  • Articles are not peer-reviewed and do not include citations
  • Authors use the terminology of the industry

Examples of the three major categories of periodicals:

Scholarly Journals Popular Magazines Trade Publications
Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism Vogue Nation's Restaurant News

Journal of Educational Research

Scientific American

Publisher Weekly

Political Quarterly

National Geographic

Advertising Age

The American Psychologist

Psychology Today

Information Today

Progress in Human Geography

U. S. News and World Report

Aviation Week and
Space Technology

Adapted from “Scholarly Journals, Popular Magazines, and Trade Publications”, by Carol A. Singer, Reference Librarian, Bowling Green State University.

Evaluating Sources: Primary and Secondary

Primary Sources:

Primary Sources are resources that record or describe events at the time they were experienced.


  • Original documents, such as diaries, letters, photographs, official records
  • Creative works, such as paintings, manuscripts, scores
  • Artifacts, such as tools, weapons, ornaments

Primary sources can be found in print and online collections.



Secondary Sources

Secondary Sources are ones:

  • that interpret or explain past events
  • that analyze or restate primary sources
  • may argue a particular interpretation or point of view

Examples are:

  • Textbooks
  • Journal articles
  • Encyclopedias
  • Biographies

Secondary sources can be found in print and online collections:
Examples are:

  • Mount Library and OhioLINK collections
  • Mount Library databases
  • Websites



Primary Source

Secondary Source


Original artwork

Article critiquing the piece of art


Slave diary

Book about the Underground Railroad



Treatise on a particular genre of poetry

Political Science


Essay on Native American land rights


Videotape of a performance

Biography of a playwright

Adapted from “Primary Vs. Secondary Sources”, by Carol A. Singer, Reference Librarian, Bowling Green State University