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ENGL 100 University Writing

Evaluating Information

The Internet and the Library make it is easy to find information, but it is more difficult to identify sources you can rely on. Evaluate your sources carefully to ensure you've selected material that is trustworthy and appropriate for your assignment. Use this checklist to help you evaluate your sources:


Scholarly Academic Publication

Popular Publications

Written by an expert in the field of study (an academic or trained specialist) Written by those without expertise in the field (a member of the public or journalist) or no clear author
Date of publication is provided Popular publications, especially those found online, often do not give a date of publication
Colleges/Universities, professional associations, scholarly publishers + research institutes    Commercial for-profit publishers or members of the public
To report on experiments, theories, case studies + other research    To sell advertised products, inform, promote a point of view or entertain
Peer review by experts in the field Review by a generalist (a magazine editor) or no review
Sources used in the author's research are cited in a reference list or footnotes    Sources are rarely cited or are inaccurate
Accurate spelling + grammar, few advertisements, logical + well written

Spelling + grammar errors may occur, many advertisements, poor or variable writing quality

(Modified, original source UBC Library)

For more information:

  • Who is the author and/or owner of the site?
  • Does the author have authority and expertise in the area?
  • What is the link's domain, .edu, .gov, or .com?
  • Are references or related links available?
  • Can you verify the information on the site elsewhere?
  • Is there a list of sources or references?
  • Has accuracy been proven through a review process?
  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it fact, opinion, selling something?
  • Is there advertising on the site, or is something being sold?
  • When was the site last updated? Is a copyright date available? 
  • Do the links work?
  • Is the information up to date for your research?
  • Is there enough coverage of the topic?  
  • Does the information support the research you have already found?
  • Are links provided to find more information?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources?
Wikipedia etc.
Wikipedia can be great to find background information! 
 Wikipedia has an absence of accountability, people do not need to verify the truthfulness of the information 

"You see, any user can change any entry, and if enough other users agree with them, it becomes true."
Stephen Colbert 





 Search engines, such as Google, websites Academic Search Premier, PsycINFO


 Any computer with Internet connection On-campus or off-campus with login


 Free Free to students, but Library pays subscription & licensing fees

Content by

 Anyone Scholars, professionals, experts, journalists


 Anything and everything, pictures, personal opinions, blogs, articles, etc. Biased or often misleading to change visitors' opinion of site or organization. Full-text articles from reputable publications, often peer reviewed content. Full-text books and book chapters. References or links for related information. 


 Personal pages, corporate pages, pages that look reliable but have no affiliation with reputable source, visually appealing pages to distract from content.  Little or no advertising, range of limiters available. Affiliated with reputable source, organization, individual or company. Contact information available. Often uses .org or .gov domains.


 Anytime by anyone, irregular schedule.

Typically published daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually. Journal/periodical issues usually identified by volume and/or issue number.

Primary Sources Examples

In the sciences, primary sources, or "primary literature" are sources which report the results of original research.

Generally in research journals; report research done by the authors.

Usually only include references to other primary sources.

Cover very focused and specialized topics.

Primary source journal articles (and sometimes conference papers/proceedings) are usually peer-reviewed or refereed ie. independent experts in the field review, or "referee" the manuscript before publication to check the accuracy and validity of its claims.


In the sciences: typically journal articles or conference papers which describe a new theory or the results of an experiment or study.

Also: Technical reports; dissertations and theses; patents; numerical data & statistics; samples, field notes and specimens; lab notes & journal entries.


Secondary Sources Examples

In the sciences, sources which review the existing literature are "secondary sources."

Generally include a large bibliography; usually the bibliographic references are primary sources.

Topic coverage is more focused than tertiary sources, but less focused than primary.

In the sciences: "review articles" in journals, research or graduate level books, specialised scientific encyclopedia entries, and scientific news reports.

Tertiary Sources Examples

Synthesize and report on secondary sources for general readers.

Sparse references, generally secondary sources.

General and very broad topic coverage

Undergraduate or course textbooks, encyclopedia articles, Wikipedia



Adapted from The CRAAP Test, developed by librarians at California State University, Chico

Examples of Peer-Reviewed Journal Article, Magazine Article, Book Review

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