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Primary Sources in History

Evaluating Sources

Evaluate resources, including web pages?

Whether the documents you find during your research are print or electronic, evaluating these sources is a crucial task. Evaluation becomes especially important when items are retrieved from the Internet using a search engine.

The Five Traditional Print Evaluation Criteria

Traditionally, most information sources have been evaluated using the following criteria: 

Criterion #1: Accuracy

  • How reliable and free from error is the information?
  • Are there editors and fact checkers?

Criterion #2: Authority

  • What are the author’s qualifications for writing on this subject?
  • How reputable is the publisher?

Criterion #3: Objectivity

  • Is the information presented with a minimum of bias?
  • To what extent is the information trying to sway the opinion of the audience?

Criterion #4: Currency

  • Is the content of the work up-to-date?
  • Is the publication date clearly labeled?

Criterion #5: Coverage

  • What are the topics included in the work?
  • Are the topics included explored in depth?  

(Ideas originally developed by Jan Alexander and Marsha Tate)