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ENG W131 Elementary Composition

Evaluating Source Purpose & Use

Key Questions:

  • What is the intended purpose of the source?
  • How might I use the source for my own purposes?
  • What other types of sources will I need for my purposes?

Evaluating Sources: Key Questions


  • When was the source published?

  • Do you need current information?

Some research topics will require more up-to-date information than do others. (For example, scientific topics tend to require more current sources than do many humanities-focused topics.)


  • For whom is the source intended?

  • What is the publication's purpose or scope?

  • Is this a scholarly or popular source? A professional/trade journal?

  • Is the language difficult to understand?
    (If so, you may wish to first gather more background information or sources written for a general audience.) 


  • Is the content appropriate for your purpose?

  • What does the source add to an understanding of your topic or argument?

  • How does the source relate to other information you have found?

  • How does the source relate to your ideas or argument?

  • Is there a list of references? It can point you to other relevant sources.


  • What are the authors' credentials or background in this area?

  • Has this author written other articles, papers, reports or books on this same topic?


  • Is the information primarily fact or opinion?

  • Does the author appear to have a strong bias, whether explicit or implied?

  • Does the author present multiple sides of issues?

  • Is the information supported by other research?

  • Has this author provided sufficient evidence?

  • Does the author use highly charged or emotional language?
    (Almost all sources have some degree of bias. A well-reasoned argument, however, considers multiple viewpoints.)

Writing Style

  • Are ideas logically and clearly presented?

  • Is the writing clear and grammatically correct?