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Evaluate Sources: Evaluative Criteria

Guide to evaluating resources during your research

Before You Begin

Before you get started...

  • These criteria should be used together.

  • This is probably obvious, but before you evaluate your sources, you need to have sources to evaluate.

    If you don't have any sources yet, you can start from the search box on the library homepage.

  • We also assume that you have taken a brief look at your sources to make sure that the sources:
    • Are relevant to your topic
    • Meet the requirements of your assignment

Evaluating Websites Tutorial

Assistant Librarian

Caren Bertrand's picture
Caren Bertrand
103-A Moon Library


When reviewing websites, also think about coverage.   Consider:

  • Does the site contribute something unique to the Subject?
  • How does the site compare with other sites on this topic?
  • Is material covered in depth rather than superficially?
  • Is there a balance of text and images?
  • Is the site readily viewable, not needing special software or requiring a fee?

Evaluative Criteria

Evaluative Criteria


Authority refers to the reputation and / or expertise of the source's author (often the source's publisher, too).


Authority isn't enough on its own, and even experts get it wrong sometimes. What else makes the source reliable?


Purpose refers to the intent of the information. Is the source trying to convince you of something? Is the source a response to previous research in the area? Is the source a response to a lack of information in a specific area?



The importance of the information for your needs. Does the information relate to your topic or answer? Who is the intended audience? Is the source scholarly or popular? 


In most cases, you should look for sources published in the last 5-10 years. If you're writing about something that happened in the past, though, older sources might be helpful.