Part 5 Critical Reading

22 Evaluating Sources

The process of finding and evaluating sources is inextricably intertwined. As researchers search for sources to advance their research, they must also evaluate the credibility of those sources, whether they are found in a library database or on the Internet.

These techniques are used in both English Composition courses.  They are most often used in English 102 because that course centers around research.  However, there are also opportunities for research in English 101 with the argument essay, so we are looking at the CRAAP test and the process of evaluating resources in English 101.

This video will help you learn how to choose sources that are credible enough for an academic audience using the CRAAP test.

Click here to see the Prezi used in the video.

What Might be a More Credible, Reliable Source?


Why is it wise to avoid unreliable sources?

Information from unreliable sources is not always true, up-to-date, or accurate. Using unreliable sources in an academic paper can weaken the credibility of the writer, dilute the writer’s argument, and detract from the overall strength of the paper.

What kind of sources should be avoided?

While the Internet provides a plethora of information on almost any topic imaginable, not all of its content can be trusted. Students should be cautiously selective while doing research and avoid sources that may contain unreliable information:

  • Popular and collective websites (,,, etc.): Websites such as these provide articles and information that has been collected from other sources that may not be reliable. While the sponsors of these sites usually employ writers who research the topics, citations for the sources of the data are not always provided.
  • Wikipedia: Wikipedia is an online open-source encyclopedia, which means that it can be edited by anyone. While the information on the site is audited by a Wikipedia editor, the information found there may or may not be correct or current.
  • Source material based solely on opinion: While material that conveys opinions and beliefs may have some validity, reliable sources that back up the opinion or belief with facts and trustworthy information should also be sought. If the opinion piece does not include data from reliable sources, a writer may choose not to include it as a source.

Note: Some sources, such as Wikipedia, provide a works cited list or reference list. Some of the cited works could be reliable, but checking the original source and interpreting the information yourself provides the opportunity to confirm its validity.

Where are credible, reliable sources found?

  • Academic databases: These databases, such as Academic Search Premier and JSTOR, include searchable collections of scholarly works, academic journals, online encyclopedias, and helpful bibliographies and can usually be accessed through a college library website.
  • Academic peer-reviewed journals: Journal articles that have been peer-reviewed are generally considered reliable because they have been examined by experts in the field for accuracy and quality.
  • Google scholar: This Internet search engine helps the user to locate scholarly literature in the form of articles and books, professional societies’ websites, online academic websites, and more.
  • Library reference or research desk: Library staff can provide useful services, such as assistance with the use of library research tools, guidance with identifying credible and non-credible sources, and selection of reliable sources.

All three of the articles below are about the same topic (online dating,) but each is written at a very different “level.” When you choose sources for an academic paper, you must ensure they are at the right level for your audience. Most college courses expect “medium” or “high” level sources. Some courses will expect you to use only “high” level sources.

Scan each article and read the first few paragraphs to determine what “level” is indicated.

Is the information at a low level? (brief, simple, easy to understand, often superficial)

Medium? (somewhere in the middle)

or a high level? (longer, more complex language/sentence structure, more evidence focused)

Click here to see article #1 

Click here to see article #2

Click here to see article #3

Watch this video to see how you did and learn more about how to evaluate a source’s level:

Is your source enough of an authority on the topic?


We decided the LA Times article about online dating was a Medium level source and the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication was a High-level source.

Revisit these same articles and decide which source has a higher level of authority.

LA Times 

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 

To determine this, you should search for information on both the authors and the periodicals themselves.

Typically the periodical provides information about the author via a hotlink or a byline near the author’s name.

Most periodicals have links to an “about us” page, or you can find their “about us” page by using Google.

Write down things you find that suggest you can trust this periodical or author. Then decide which has a higher level of credibility to write about this topic.

Watch this video to see how you did and learn more about how to evaluate Authority.



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