Skip to Main Content

Evaluate Sources

Criteria for Evaluating a Scholarly Article

Some criteria for evaluating research articles are listed below. Although the criteria are geared toward experimental sciences, the same general qualities can be found in Arts and Humanities research resources as well:

  • Theory/Hypothesis -- A question or problem
  • Literature review -- A thorough search of previous research that addresses the problem (or ones like them)
  • Methodology -- A guideline explaining of method used to gather data (details about example questions, experiment, analysis of letters)
  • Data -- Raw data and organized data -- the information that was gathered and organized and/or "coded"
  • Interpretation of Data -- Analysis of gathered data in relation to hypothesis and in relation to previous research
  • Conclusion/Findings -- summary of research conducted, and significance in relation to the field. Some proposal for further research
  • Bibliography/References -- from both literature and analysis portions.

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Created by the NCSU Library.  This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.

Criteria for Evaluating Sources

Whether you find it online, in print, or in some other form, critical evaluation of information sources is an essential part of the research process.  First, be sure you know what type of information your instructor considers appropriate for your assignment.  For instance, many instructors require the use of peer-reviewed, scholarly or scientific journal articles.

When evaluating the credibility of information there are several key areas to consider:


  • Who is the author? What are his or her credentials? Is the author associated with a reputable organization?
  • Who is the publisher? (Commercial publisher, university press, professional organization?)
  • What is the intent of the publisher? (Sell magazines, share research, promote a product?)


  • Does the author state the goals of this publication? (To inform, advocate, persuade?)
  • Does the author or publisher express an opinion (example: newspaper editorial) or is the information factual (like statistics)?
  • Is there any advertising presented with the information?
  • Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched? Are conclusions supported by evidence?
  • Are opposing arguments addressed?


  • What type of source is it? (Book, magazine, journal, web site)?
  • Is it well organized and clearly written? Are arguments presented logically?
  • Is the information accurate? Are facts documented? Are authoritative sources cited?


  • How in-depth is the material?
  • Does it offer information not found elsewhere?
  • Is the material primary or secondary in nature?


  • Is the information’s publishing date current enough for the topic of the research paper?
  • Is your topic one that requires current information?
  • Has the source been revised or updated?


  • Who is the information written for — a specific readership, level of expertise or age/grade level?
  • Is the audience focus appropriate for a research paper?

What does Peer Review mean?

Scholarly information is based in scholarship and research, and is produced by the scholars or experts in a particular field.  Much scholarly material that is published in books and academic journals goes through the peer-review process in which a manuscript is reviewed by independent researchers (referees or peer-reviewers) to evaluate the contribution for authority and accuracy.  

How do articles get peer reviewed? What role does peer review play in scholarly research and publication? This video will explain.

Created by the NCSU Library.  This video is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license.