Skip to Main Content

Evaluating Information Sources Critically: Guide

Evaluating Sources Critically

Before using any piece of information as a source, it should be evaluated critically. Suggested criteria are listed below.


¨   Is the author clearly identified? Are the credentials of the author provided? Is the author qualified to write on the subject?

¨   Is the publisher or sponsoring organization clearly identified? What do the web host and URL indicate (.edu, .org, .gov, .com)?

¨   Is the publisher or sponsoring organization well-known or respected in the field?

¨   Is the article peer reviewed or refereed? This means that it is carefully reviewed for its accuracy and value by a committee of scholars who are experts in the field.

¨   Does the journal use a peer review or referee process for selecting articles?

¨   Is contact information for the publisher or sponsoring organization readily available?


¨  Are there factual errors?

¨  Are sources for factual information listed clearly so that they can be verified?

¨  Are links to supporting external sources provided?


¨   Is opinion clearly distinguished from factual information?

¨   Why did the author write this? Does the author have a vested interest in the issue?

¨   What is the mission of the publisher or sponsoring organization?

¨   Is there advertising present that is related to the information? 


¨   Is the date of publication clearly indicated?

¨   Is the date of publication appropriate for your research needs?

¨   Is this the most current information available?

Breadth, Depth, and Omission

¨   Is the topic covered comprehensively?

¨   Are there aspects of the topic or opposing opinions which are omitted?

¨   Are there additional sources that you should examine to cover the topic more broadly or deeply?

Research Assistance

Reference Desk

Librarians can help you learn to make the most of the information resources, tools, and services of Murphy Library and beyond!

Weekdays & Sunday afternoons (fall/spring):

  • Visit us at the reference desk (1st floor)
  • Call us at 608.785.8508
  • Web Chat with us

Any time (year-round):

Local history and/or archives research? Special Collections / Area Research Center specialists are available!

Other Guides to Evaluating Sources

Here is a list of several strategies for evaluating information sources critically.