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Evaluating Sources

Evaluate websites and other sources of information for relevance, accuracy, authority, purpose, and timeliness.


Goal: Find an authoritative source created by a person or organization who knows the subject, has expertise, and demonstrates credibility.

Is it Authoritative?

Is it Authoritative? Ask these questions:

  • Who is responsible for the information? Who is the author, editor, publisher?
  • Is the author or editor an authority on the subject? How do you know? - What are their credentials (such as education) or other basis of their expertise? 
  • Is the author/editor affiliated with a well-known organization, university, or government agency?
  • For original research, is it published in a peer-reviewed journal?
  • For a web page, is it hosted by a reputable organization, or is it someone's personal web page?


Can't find the author's name or credentials? A magazine or newspaper article may be written by an unnamed staff reporter. When there is no author given, the authority of the source is based on the reputation of the publisher or producer of the information. An organization can be considered as the author.

Check the domain of a website. Some are more regulated than others. For example, .gov is always a government website, but it could be federal, state, or local. Universities are usually .edu, but there are exceptions, and the specific webpage might be the work of student. Although .org usually means organization and .com means commercial, anyone can use either of these.  

Look beyond the source. How an organization describes itself may be very different from how others see it. Do a separate search for the organization name. What do other credible sources say about it? Wikipedia can be helpful, but better yet, look up the organization in a database like Credo Reference.

What is a scholarly journal?

St. Louis Community College Libraries

Florissant Valley Campus Library
3400 Pershall Rd.
Ferguson, MO 63135-1408
Phone: 314-513-4514

Forest Park Campus Library
5600 Oakland
St. Louis, MO 63110-1316
Phone: 314-644-9210

Meramec Campus Library
11333 Big Bend Road
St. Louis, MO 63122-5720
Phone: 314-984-7797

Wildwood Campus Library
2645 Generations Drive
Wildwood, MO 63040-1168
Phone: 636-422-2000