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Library and Information Science

Source evaluation

Here you will find resources and tools to help you to develop your ability to evaluate information. On the pages Journal articles and Books in this guide, you will find more information about evaluating different kinds of sources. See information about the peer review process, scientific journal articles vs trade journal articles, and about scientific and popular books.

Source evaluation

Evaluating information is important in all kinds of contexts, whether you are looking at a post in social media, reading a newspaper article, or searching for scientific information for your research. It applies to all kinds of information sources, to written texts, images, film, or design objects. Before you decide to use a certain information source, you have to judge whether it is reliable and credible and if it is relevant in the context that it will be used.

Scientific sources - characteristics

  • The authors are researchers and the publishers are universities or research institutes.
  • The information is published in scientific publications.
    Examples of scientific publications:


  • The purpose for publishing is to disseminate research findings.
  • The target audience is other researchers, experts, and students within the field.
  • They are primary (original) sources which means that they provide first-hand information on a given subject (exceptions: scientific review articles and theoretical articles; these are scientific sources even though they are not primary sources).
  • They are peer reviewed which means that they are scientifically reviewed by experts - applies especially to scientific journals.

Evaluating scientific sources

Here are examples of questions to ask when you evaluate scientific sources:

Relevance? Is the source appropriate for your research?

Reliability? Are the main arguments and conclusions well supported. This means: are the conclusions based on the results?

Current? Is the source current? Whether the source is up-to-date important, but sometimes, also older studies can be of interest, e.g. to see how the field of study has evolved over time.

Citations? Is the author or a source cited by others? Information on citations is available in the databases Scopus, Web of Science, and via the search engine Google Scholar.

Evaluate written sources

Here are examples of questions to ask when you evaluate text based sources:

Who is the originator, author?

  • Someone qualified within the field?
  • A private person, a company, a public authority (government agency?), an established and well reputed organisation?
  • For websites and social media - is there information about and contact information to the originator?

Where is the information published?

  • In a credible journal?
  • By a credible publishing firm?

For what purpose is the information published?

  • To present research resultats, inform, entertain, sell a product or a message?

For whom is the information published?

  • For researchers, experts, students, the public?

Is the information credible?

  • Is it facts or opinions?
  • Are there references to credible sources?

Is the information current?

  • When was it published?

Are there other, better sources?

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