P.R.O.V.E.N. Source Evaluation by librarian Ellen Carey (2018), Santa Barbara City College, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
The process of evaluating a source includes examining the source itself and examining other sources by:
- Checking for previous work. Has someone already fact-checked this source?
- Finding the original source. Who originally published the information and why?
- Reading laterally. What do other people say about this publication and author?
- Circling back. How can you revise your original search to yield better results?
- Checking your own emotions. Is your own bias affecting your evaluation?1
The questions below will help you think critically during the source evaluation process:
Purpose: How and why the source was created.
- Why does this information exist?
Why is it in this form (book, article, website, etc.)?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the purpose clear?
Relevance: The value of the source for your needs.
- How useful is this source in answering your question, supporting your argument, or adding to your knowledge?
- Is the type and content of the source appropriate for your assignment?
Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information.
- How thorough and balanced is this source?
- Does it present fact or opinion?
- How well do its creators acknowledge their point of view, represent other points of view fully, and critique them professionally?
Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information.
- How well do the creators of this source support their information with factual evidence, identify and cite their sources, and accurately represent information from other sources?
- Can you find the original source(s) of the information or verify facts in other sources?
- What do experts say about the topic?
Expertise: The authority of the authors and the source.
- Who created this source and what education and/or professional or personal experience makes them authorities on the topic?
- How was the source reviewed before publication?
- Do other experts cite this source or otherwise acknowledge the authority of its creators?
Newness: The age of the information.
- Does your topic require current information?
- How up-to-date is this source and the information within it?
1Based on Caulfield, Mike. "Four Moves and a Habit." Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers, 2017.