Most of these questions will NOT a) be easy to find and b) tell you that the source you are reading is 100% credible, but they are still important to ask. Digging into a source itself and finding out more about it is part of the research process.

Evaluating sources is an ongoing activity you will do throughout your research, and it includes evaluation of your own search process.

As you search, pay attention to the keywords and phrases you are using. Are you looking for information that will only confirm what you already suspect, or are you looking for possibly contradictory or opposing information as well? Do you have any 'go-to' sources that you use to find information? Are you looking in too narrow an area for information? 

  • Who?

    Surface Level Question

    Who is the author, editor, or creator? Is the author qualified to write about this topic? 

    The Deep Issues

    What makes them qualified? First-hand experience? An advanced degree?

  • What?

    Surface Level Question

    What type of document is it? For example, is it a newspaper article? A blog? A government website? A scholarly article? A book?  

    What is it about?

    The Deep Issues

    There is no 'bad' type of document, but some have gone through a more rigorous review process than others.

  • When?

    Surface Level Question

    When was this source published? Is the information up-to-date?

    The Deep Issues

    The 'up-to-date'-ness of a source matters more for some research questions than others.

  • Where?

    Surface Level Question

    Where did you find the source? A library database? A website?

    For websites, what is the URL ending? For example, .com? .gov? .org? .edu? 

    The Deep Issues

    There is no 'bad' type of source, but sometimes source types can give you a better idea of where to find certain types of content.

  • Why?

    Surface Level Question

    What was the goal of the author or publisher? Is there bias? 

    The Deep Issues

    Bias does not necessarily negate credibility. We all have biases. The question then becomes: are those biases disclosed? Do they impact the quality of the information?

  • How?

    Surface Level Question

    How did the author(s) gather data and information? Did they include citations? Did they derive reasonable conclusions from the research?

    The Deep Issues

    Did the author(s) only cite themselves/their associates? How well did they explain their process? Was their work reviewed by anyone else?