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WR 1011: Writing About Science & Technology: Evaluating Sources

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 is the author, editor, or creator? 

What are the author's qualifications? First-hand experience? An advanced degree?



What type of document is it? For example, is it a newspaper article? Magazine article? Blog? Government report? Scholarly article? Book or book chapter?  

What is it about?

Is the document type 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? 



Who is the intended audience?

What was the goal of the author and/or publisher?


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


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 open to finding possibly contradictory or opposing information as well? Are you looking in the same place for all your sources? Or are you using a variety of search tools and looking for different points of view? 

Scholarly vs Popular Sources

Scholarly/Academic Sources Popular Sources
Examples: Peer-reviewed journal articles and books/book chapters Magazines and newspapers 
Author is usually:

Scholar in field, academic, or researcher  

Staff Writer, journalist, often a generalist

Credit/Sources: Always many references and/or footnotes          

Rarely cites sources, original sources may be obscure

Length: Articles and chapters are typically 10+ pages Usually brief 
Advertisements: Usually do not contain ads Usually have ads 


Source Evaluation: TRAAP

Run Time: 3:17

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What is TRAAP? (0:05)
  • Timeliness (0:26)
  • Relevance (1:03)
  • Authority (1:46)
  • Accuracy (2:15)
  • Purpose (2:40)