Critically evaluating a source helps you assess whether the information is trustworthy, plausible and unbiased. This applies to both electronic and printed material, and is important regardless of whether the source is historical or contemporary.
Checklist for source evaluation
- Who is conveying the information?
- Creator - Is the author or creator clearly stated or is the document anonymous? Has he or she published anything else? Can the creator be considered to have knowledge of the subject in question?
- Publisher - Who is behind the information? Is it a company, an administrative authority, an organisation or a private individual? Is the publisher known for its publications on the subject in question? Are there any contact details? Serious publishers usually give clear information about themselves.
- What kind of source is it?
Is the source scientific/scholarly or is it popular science? Does it contain references to other sources? Are the references correct? Also, consider how and to what extent the source is relevant to your needs.
- Who is the source created for and for what purpose?
Which is the source’s intended target group? Is the material created to present, inform, sell or convince its audience? Does the it present facts or information in a nuanced way?
- When is the material written or created?
Is the source up to date? If there several editions of a work, it may be advisable to use the latest edition. If the source is a web site, check when the text on the web page was published.