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First Year Seminar

There are many different source types to choose from when doing research. However, no matter the source type, the evaluation process is the same.

Common source types:

  • Academic journals & articles (written by experts or researchers in the discipline)
  • Books / eBooks (written by anyone)
  • Reference materials (i.e. encyclopedias, almanacs, dictionaries)
  • Newspapers and Magazines (written by journalists)
  • Websites, Videos, Media (written by anyone)
  • Images (i.e. charts, pictures, infographics)
  • Data & Statistics (usually affiliated with organizations, research studies, etc.)

Just because something is available online, that doesn’t mean it is a website.  Online subscription databases like those from EBSCO or JSTOR are available because the library has paid to have online access to their materials, which is often more convenient for students and researchers.   The open web, however, is exactly the opposite. The information is freely available, but anyone can create and host a site without any regulation, and there are some sites which may appear factual and authoritative, but can be edited by anyone, such as Wikipedia.

When evaluating sources, it's important to keep these six things in mind: 

Authority Source Purpose
Who has written this information? What credentials does this person/group have on this subject? Is your source credible? What is the reputation of the source or content author? Who is responsible for the Web site or resource? What organization is hosting (and paying to keep alive) this page or publish this resource? Why does this site or resource exist? Why was it created? Who is the intended audience?
Accuracy Depth Currency
Is the information accurate? Can it be verified through another source? Is the language objective and impartial or is it subjective and inflammatory? Is the information or research documented? How thoroughly is the topic covered? Is it written for college level research? Is the information sufficiently complete for your purposes? When was the information on the site last updated? When was the source published? Is the information timely?


Academic Search Complete is a multi-disciplinary full-text database, with more than 8,500 full-text periodicals, including more than 7,300 peer-reviewed journals. Includes searchable PDF content going back as far as 1887. This may seem like a lot, and it is, but when you have good keywords and search strategies, it's not so bad!

Limit Your Results