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HI 2320: Intro to Modern European History - Prof. Emily Gioielli: Evaluating Sources

Source Types

Common source types for humanities research include:

Evaluation is a Process

Questions to Ask When Evaluating the Sources You Find:

The 5 Ws The Surface-Level Questions The Deeper Questions



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

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



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?

Is the source appropriate for the type of research you are doing?

Is it relevant to your research?



When was this source published? 

Is the publication date appropriate for the type of research you are doing?



Where did the authors get their information from? Are citations provided?

Did the authors cite sources that are credible? 



What was the goal of the author or publisher? Who is the intended audience?

Is there bias? 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 was the work reviewed before publication? Was the work subject to peer-review or a similarly rigorous review process?


Don't worry about answering every single question for each source you find. Use these questions a jumping off point to help you determine if a source is appropriate for the type of research you are doing.​

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 using a variety of search tools and looking for different points of view? 

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Here is a short video on source evaluation from the N.C. State librarians:

Source Evaluation Activity

Look at the following sources and consider these questions.

  1. Is this a primary source or a secondary source?
  2. How might you use this source as part of your research process? For example, would you use it to learn some background information on your topic? To find related sources? To support an argument in your paper?
  3. Would you cite this source in your paper?