chat loading...
Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

FYS: History Rocks! (2018): Evaluating Sources

This is a guide for Professor Coogan's FYS.


Currency - When was the material published?  On websites look for copyright information or the last date it was updated.

Relevance - How does the source pertain to your research?  Who is the intended audience?  Make sure that your source is directly related to your topic or thesis and that the writing is appropriate for your project.

Authority - Who wrote or published the work? Does the work or website provide the authors credentials?  If you're working online, take a look at the end of the url, it can reveal a lot about the organization (e.g. .gov = government, .edu = school/university).  If you cannot tell who published or created a work that is a red flag that it is not a good source

Accuracy - Where or how did they gather these facts?  Can you verify their information in another source?  Do they provide a bibliography or citations for any claims that they have made?  If you're looking a journal article, is it a peer-reviewed article?  Take a look at the general layout of the work - if there are a lot of typos or mistakes that is a sign that it is not accurate.

Purpose - Why have they written about this topic?  Are the ideas based on legitimate research or is it an expression of an opinion or a rant/exaggeration/parody? Are they trying to inform, entertain, or advertise to you?  

Who wrote this?

Who is/are the authors? Are they qualified to write on this topic? Are they associated with any institution that makes them more or less credible on this topic?

DO THIS: Do a quick search for an author's bio or cv (= academic resume). You can also check to see whether the author has written any other papers or books on the same topic.

Make sure websites provide you with the name of the actual author (not just the webmaster).

Can't tell who the author is? You should never use information that you can't verify in an academic paper.

Who published this?

DO THIS: find a description of the publisher of your book or article, or find their website. What types of things do they publish, and who is their audience?

OK to use: art history book by Yale University Press.
Why? University publishers produce academic-quality books that have been written by experts in the field, and have been fact-checked before they are published

Questionable: book on Susan B. Anthony by Scholastic Publishing.
Why? Scholastic is actually a publisher that produces books for K-12 schools. The information in the book will be accurate, but for a college paper you can find a book that's more at your level.

Questionable: book on the Civil War published by Author House.
Why? Author House is a website that helps people self-publish: anyone can write a book and publish via Author House. No fact-checking, no guarantee of subject expertise.


  • .com = business
  • .org = organization
  • .gov = government agency
  • .edu = school
  • .edu/~morgan = Mr. Morgan's personal page at Unnamed University.

Evaluating Websites

Evaluating Information

Western University, London, Ontario, 2012

When did they publish it?

DO THIS: find a date.Consider

  1. whether there may be more recent information on your topic, and
  2. whether it is important to your paper that you use the most recent information.
  • On web pages, find the date the material was originally written, and when the page was last updated.
  • Journal article in a database: make sure you know when the article was originally written (don't confuse tthat with the date it was added to the database)

Why was this created?

DO THIS:  use your information about the author and publisher to determine whether they may have a bias about your topic.

If they do, you will have to make this clear in your paper when you use any information from their writing. Consider:

  • Is the information fact, or opinion?
  • What is the purpose? What do the authors want to accomplish?
  • Is there an implicit or explicit bias?

Can I verify it?


1. check for sources. Do the authors use citations, do they provide references and/or a bibliography?

2. check a few facts from the information against a reliable encyclopedia. Use:

  • Credo Reference
  • The encyclopedias found in the library's first-floor reference section.

Does it work for me?

DO THIS: go back and read your assignment. Answer the following questions:

  1. Is this information really relavent to the assingment and to my topic?
  2. Is this information written at the appropriate age/knowledge level?
  3. Is this information complete, or do I have to find something else to fill in gaps?