Evaluate your sources

Not all information you come across during the research process is appropriate for use in academic work. There are several criteria you can use to determine what is and isn't appropriate for you to use. The importance of these criteria can vary depending on what you are researching, so it is important to use your judgement and ask Library staff for a second opinion.

Watch the video below for an introduction to the criteria you can use to evaluate information.

Criteria for evaluating information


  • Who created the work? Authors/corporate authors or publishers?
  • What are their credentials and affiliations? Are they experienced, educated or an expert in the field? If a corporate author, are they a respected, legitimate organisation or company?
  • Who is the publisher? Consider the different reasons a publisher may have for publishing information (related to purpose/objectivity) e.g. University Press vs. a commercial publisher.


Currency relates to when the information or resource was created.


  • For books and journal articles, when was the resource published? Is it the latest edition?
  • When was the information last updated on a website? Is there a date at all? Be careful about using the copyright or footer dates - this often refers to when information on an entire site is updated, not necessarily the page you are looking at.
  • Is currency important to your information need? This can depend on your topic, or the type of information you are using (e.g. historical information won't change, whereas technological information, health information, etc. will and it's more important that the information you use is up to date).

Purpose and objectivity

Purpose and objectivity refer to why the information was created, and how unbiased it is.


  • What is the purpose of the information? Why was it created? Some common examples can include:
    • commercial / to try and sell something
    • for information
    • satire
    • education
    • opinion.
  • Information published to sell a product or advocate a particular point of view can be presented out of context and be influenced by the author's viewpoint.
  • If something is created to sell an idea or product, the information is likely to be skewed in a certain direction and can potentially exclude information that doesn't agree or contradicts.
  • Information aimed at a particular audience (e.g. school students) may not be comprehensive enough for your purposes.
  • Can you detect any bias? Opinion pieces often contain bias, as do advertisements.
  • Does it attempt to appeal to your emotions through the use of emotive language or images? Most academic sources use objective language and specific examples; look for emotionally charged, vague or general language which may indicate the information is biased or misrepresenting the facts.
  • Has information been intentionally or unintentionally excluded? Sources that don't present all facts or cover all perspectives, and ignore contradictory or conflicting information, may be biased and trying to persuade. Scholarly, reliable information should be objective and present all sides to an argument.


Reliability refers to how much you can trust the information provided.


  • Can you verify the facts presented? Look for a reference list or links to corroborating/verifying information.
  • In scientific papers/research, can the research be replicated? Is there enough information about how the information was gathered/analysed (particularly for data)?
  • Is the journal peer reviewed? Peer reviewed journals have the most academic credibility.

Evaluate a website

We'll now apply some of what we've learnt to evaluating a website. Watch the video below.

Fake news

Fake news is false or misleading information presented as reliable or factual news, often with the intention of damaging reputations or making money through advertising. While not a new phenomenon, the proliferation of fake news has been made easier through the Internet and the ability of anyone to be able to create a professional-looking website and post anything they want. In addition, social media sites use algorithms based on a person's reading history to feed them similar information, thereby creating a vacuum in which fake news can feel increasingly legitimate.

Many of the criteria used to evaluate information can also be used to identify fake news, but there are some other ways to check. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) (2020) have created a great infographic to help identify Fake News:

  • Consider the source: click away from the story to investigate the site, its mission and contact info.
  • Read beyond: headlines are often outlandish or outrageous to encourage clicks (click-bait). Consider the whole story, rather than just the headline.
  • Check the author: a simple Google search will often reveal whether the author is credible or not (or even if they're real!).
  • Supporting sources: click on the links in the article - do they provide the information you think they do?
  • Check the date: reposting old news stories doesn't mean they're relevant to current events.
  • Is it a joke?: Some fake news is satire and can be identified by being too outlandish. Sites like The Onion and The Betoota Advocate are good examples of satirical websites.
  • Check your biases: stop and ask yourself if your own beliefs could be affecting your judgment.

It is getting increasingly harder to tell if something is fake news or not. If you've considered all of the above questions, and are still not sure, ask for a second opinion from a friend or colleague, or a Librarian.

Quick tip: Evaluating information is not an exact science. Most resources fall in between being 100% scholarly and 100% inaccurate. Use the above criteria to make your best judgement, and if you're in doubt, ask for a second opinion from the Library!

Activity - Evaluating an information source

Have in front of you the full text of an article that you have already found (or perhaps choose one from a Unit's QUT readings List). Using the 5 criteria outlined above, evaluate your chosen article for suitability as an information source.

Can you find all the information required to assess its quality?

Does it pass all 5 criteria?