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ENC 1102 - Prof. Malenfant: Evaluate Your Sources


What is a source?

A source is an object in any format containing information, which a researcher uses to support an idea or argument.

What is a primary source?

A primary source is original documentation or evidence of a person or event. Primary sources are created by the person or within the same time period of the event.

Examples: Newspaper article, Interview, Original research

What is a secondary source?

Secondary sources analyze or interpret original documentation related to a person or event.

Examples: Literary Criticism, Book Review, Magazine article

Reference Books, Circulating Books & eBooks



Reference Books

A book organized in a specific manner which allows users to easily access information. In print format, these books can only be used in the library. In electronic format, they can be accessed remotely.  Examples: Encyclopedia, Atlas

Circulating Books

A print book that can be checked-out


An electronic book that can be retrieved in the library or remotely

Magazines, Newspapers, Trade Journals & Academic Journals




Magazines are written for the general public. They feature lots of pictures and advertisements. The authors of the articles are often staff writers. The content includes information on current events, entertainment and special features.


Information in newspapers is targeted toward the general public. Newspapers usually feature black and white print and photographs. The articles are written by journalists and staff writers. The articles discuss news events and special features.

Trade Journal

Trade journals contain information for professionals within a specific industry. Usually staff writers or industry professionals write the articles. They feature  color photographs and industry specific advertisements. The articles discuss news and special features related to a specific industry.

Academic Journal

Researchers and scholars are the main audience for academic journals. They do not feature pictures or advertisements. Research articles make-up the content. They are written by researchers/scholars of a particular profession.

Using Web Sources?

Be sure to use the CRAAP test to evaluate the source.

Check for:

Currency:  The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?

  • Has the information been revised or updated?

  • Is the information current or out-of-date for your topic?

  • Are the links functional?

Relevance:  The importance of the information for your needs.

  •     Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?

  •     Who is the intended audience?

  •     Is the information at an appropriate level?

  •     Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?

  •     Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority:  The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?

  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?

  • Is the author a teacher or student of the topic?

  • Does the author have a reputation?

  • Is there contact information, such as an e-mail address?

  • Has the author published works in traditional formats?

  • Is the author affiliated with an organization?

  • Does this organization appear to support or sponsor the page?

  • What does the domain name/URL reveal about the source of the information, if anything?

Accuracy:  The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the informational content.

  • Where does the information come from?

  • Are the original sources of information listed?

  • Can  you verify any of the information in independent sources or from you own knowledge?

  • Has the information been reviewed or referred?

  • Does the language or tone seem biased?

  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typos?

Purpose:  The reason the information exists.

  • Are possible biases clearly stated?

  • Is advertising content vs. informational content easily distinguishable?

  • Are editorials clearly labeled?

  • Is the purpose of the page stated?

  • Is the purpose to:  inform? teach? entertain? enlighten? sell? persuade?

  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?


 (courtesy of Northeastern Illinois University and the original creator California State University Chico