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CMS 497

This guide was created to help students in Professor Larson's CMS 497 course.

Source Evaluation

Evaluating sources is all about thinking critically not just about the credibility or trustworthiness of the source, but also considering its usefulness to your research need.

Consider this statement: There is no such thing as a good source or bad source. There are only sources that are good or bad for your research.


Use the 5W questions below to help you learn more about a source and decide whether/ how to use it in your research.

The very first question: How do you plan to use this source?

  • Do you plan to cite this source as reputable information?
  • Do you plan to critique this source as an example of bias about your topic?
  • Your use will determine what answers you hope to get from the following questions.

Who is the author of the source?

  • What are the author’s credentials, educational background, area of expertise, etc.?
  • Have other scholars cited this work?

What type of source is it? (Primary, secondary, journal article, website, etc.)

Where did you find this article?

  • Database, library catalog, open web?
  • Who is publishing/hosting the article?

Also, Where did the funding come from for this article to be written?

When was the source published?

  • Is the source too old or too new for your purposes?

Why was the source written?

  • Is the information in it fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Is the author's point of view objective and impartial? Can you detect a bias?

Pull it all together: Using your answers to the above questions, do you still plan to use this source?

Source: Kirsten Hansen, "Do you trust this source?" Project CORA lesson plan.

Evaluation Frameworks

Google Tricks

You can leverage the power of Google to help find reliable information from trusted sources. By adding a site limiter to your search, you can tell Google to only show you results from certain types of websites. It's simple!

If you want to find information from government organizations, add to your search. Your results will only include websites with .gov domains. For example, searching for homelessness in Nebraska returns results from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, and other government organizations. 

If you want to find information from educational organizations like universities, add to your search. Your results will only include websites with .edu domains.

You can also do this with whole websites. For example, if you want to quickly find Doane's academic integrity policy, search for academic integrity policy