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Evaluate Your Sources

Authority isn't enough on its own. Experts often disagree with one another, and in fact, scholarly literature often involves continuing debate. What else makes the source reliable? Let's consider these ideas further:

  • Is the source peer-reviewed?

    Academic articles and books are usually reviewed by other experts before they get published. The reviewers often provide valuable feedback to the authors, which helps make the final product better. 

  • Where did the author get their information?

    Does the author provide enough information for you to find their sources (ex. links in a web page, a reference list at the end of an article)?

    If the author did an experiment or study, was it well-designed? (You may want to talk to your professor about this.)

  • Are the author's conclusions logical and reasonable?

    Does the author fall victim to any logical fallacies, a.k.a. common flaws in reasoning?

    Do you think the author drew the right conclusions from their other sources?

    Do you think the author drew the right conclusions from their research?

Special considerations for...

Books

  • Most non-fiction books will include references to their sources.
  • Look for book reviews if you have doubts about the credibility of a book. Ask a librarian if you need help finding book reviews.

Articles

  • In scholarly and professional journals, authors will usually include citations for their sources.
  • In magazines and newspapers, authors may include quotes from experts. You can search Google for more information on those experts.

Websites

  • There are no special considerations for websites.

Social Media

  • Social media and search engines are purposely designed to show you things you might be interested in, or agree with. Try to make sure you're getting a variety of perspectives. 
  • Remember that posts on social media are meant to be brief, by design.
    • Because of the limited space, people may not be able to provide all their sources or facts in a post.
    • Don't be afraid to ask someone for clarification if you need it.
    • Be wary of clickbait ("This One Weird Trick...") and things that sound too crazy to be true.
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