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HU 3900: Inquiry Seminar - Meditation: Evaluate Your Sources

Professor Adrien Stoloff

Evaluation is a Process

When you find a source that you are considering using for your research, use the following questions to help you judge the suitability and credibility of the source: 

The 5 Ws The Surface-Level Questions The Deeper Questions

 

Who?

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?

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?

When was this source published? 

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

 

Where?

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

Did the authors cite sources that are credible? 

 

Why?

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?

Was this source created for a scholarly audience or a more general audience?

 

Do your best to find the answers to these questions. Use these questions to help answer the broader question: Is this source appropriate to use for the research that I am conducting?

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

Source Types

Common source types for humanities research include:

  • Books by scholars
    • Books that encompass a single work
    • Books that incorporate multiple works (collections of papers by scholars)
  • Peer-reviewed journal articles
  • Primary sources

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

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