English 007 (Plunkett): Evaluating Sources

Grassroots Movement Assignment

ABCs of Web Pages

Authority (credentials)

Who is presenting this information, and what are their related qualifications? Is there an individual author listed, or is the information coming from a group or organization? If an individual author is listed, can you determine if they have relevant education and experience?  Can you verify his/her qualifications? If a group/organization authored the material, who are they? Are they a nationally recognized group? How long have they been around?

Bias (objectivity)

What is the purpose of this web site? Is it designed to present factual information as a public service, or is its purpose to persuade readers to adopt a particular viewpoint? Does it exist to make a profit? Put biased information into context (“According to the National Rifle Association, gun control fails in its fundamental purpose.”) and be sure to double-check statistics and “facts” from biased sights against reliable, non-biased sources.

Currency (time-frame)

Is the material current enough to support your research?

See for yourself...

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

A primary source...

·        Is a thread of information that when pieced together with other primary sources form the fabric known as history.


·        Is anything written or produced by those who participated in or witnessed an event firsthand.


·        May take the form of “eyewitness accounts, decrees, letters and diaries, newspapers and magazines, speeches, autobiographies, and treatises.”


·        May include non-traditional sources such as coins, jewelry, films, art, music, oral testimony, and others sources of information.   


A secondary source...

·        Offers a second-hand interpretation of an event or person, and usually takes the form of scholarly writing.


·        Provides an overview that allows researchers to understand “how other historians” have interpreted an event.


·        Provides the reader with a bibliographic guide to primary and secondary sources.

Evaluating Books & Articles

Thousands of books and articles exist about any given topic. Not all of them are as useful as others. In order to determine whether a source is useful for your research, you must first review the source based on the following criteria:

  1. Is the book published by a known publisher such as a university press?
  2. How recently was the book published?
  3. Have you seen the book cited in the bibliographies of other books or articles related to the same subject?
  4. Does the book have footnotes/endnotes?
  5. Have you looked at the contents of the book? Do the chapter titles give you clues about the contents of the book?
  6. Does the book have a bibliography?
  7. Is the book/article too general or too specific?
  8. Does it offer an analysis or is it simply narrative?