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Evaluate Sources

The line between what is considered scholarly and non-scholarly continues to blur as it becomes easier to create and share information. Sometimes you need to use a combination of different information types. This means you need to be able to carefully evaluate each source you use.

Some questions you may consider in your evaluation of identified sources include:

  • Who created or produced the information?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Why was the information created?
  • Can you verify the claims a source makes with other sources you find in your research?

Primary and Secondary Sources

You may also consider whether you need to consult primary or secondary sources information sources. Specific types of primary and secondary sources vary for different topics, but in general:

  • Primary sources are original information, created around the time or place you're researching, or authored by the person who generated the research. Examples could include historic newspaper articles, original research papers, or datasets.
  • Secondary sources have been interpreted or evaluated by somebody before reaching you. They may contain commentary, review, discussion, or analysis. Examples include a journalist reporting about a scientific finding or an entry in an encyclopedia.

Recognize Scholarly, Popular, and Trade Publications

This video, "Popular, Scholarly, Trade: What's the Difference?" from the Albert S. Cook Library, discusses what to look for to tell the difference between different types of publications. This video runs 9:21 and was last updated in September, 2020.

Evaluate Source Credibility

This video, "Evaluating Sources for Credibility" from NC State University, discusses how to determine if a source is credible and what criteria you may use to make your evaluation. This video runs 3:14 and was last updated in June, 2015.