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Tutor Guide: Reliable Sources

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What Are Reliable Sources?

Reliable Sources are can be scholarly or not. Well-regarded newspapers and magazines can be reliable sources, for example. For most academic research, however, we tend to focus on scholarly sources. Most often, they are written by scholars or scientists, focus on theory or research, and include citations. A scholarly article normally includes an abstract at the beginning, the name and issue of the journal in which it was published, the author’s credentials, and a list of references.


Primary sources can also be reliable sources and include historical documents such as memoirs, works of art, or news articles from the historical period you are researching.  For more information about primary sources and where to find them, take a look at the Guide to Primary Sources.

Questions to Ask When Evaluating Sources

When evaluating sources, ask students these questions to help them determine the reliability of their sources:

  1. Is it relevant? Will this source help you accomplish your task?
  2. Who wrote it? Do they have expertise?
  3. When was it written?  Does its age affect its value to your research? Is it too dated?
  4. Why was it written? To persuade, inform, or further our knowledge on new research?  Think about the intended audience.  Does the purpose suggest a particular bias?
  5. Where did they get their information?  Do they list their sources? Does the author provide evidence for their claims?
  6. How did they arrive at their conclusions? Is anything misunderstood or left out?
  7. What have other people said about this topic?  How does this source fit into the larger conversation on the topic? Compare your sources to identify any differences and conflicts between them.

Evaluating Sources

Here are a few external sources that will help your students think through questions of evaluation and authority, as well as provide them with some basic checklists for evaluating sources: 

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