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POLS-110: Introduction to Politics

Evaluating Sources

Ideally, everything you find using a library's databases/indexes would be trustworthy e.g. peer-reviewed and/or scholarly. That is not the case. Whether you have identified a resource through Google or a scholarly index like you must critically evaluate every source before you use it.

Iowa State University's library have developed a checklist for evaluating scholarly books and articles. To summarize, the following elements should be examined: (1) author, (2) publisher, (3) peer review, (4) purpose, (5) content, (6) usefulness, (7) accuracy, and (8) currency. My advice: trust your gut!

There are also a number of convenient checklists that have been developed to help you evaluate websites. Two of the most actively used checklists are included below: RADAR and CRITICAL. The incorporation of CRITICAL supports our commitment to decolonizing information literacy and our focus on I-EDIAA (Indigenous, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Anti-Racism, and Accessibility).  Both tools provide a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you retrieve from the web.


Option #1 for Evaluating Internet Sources: RADAR


  • How is this information relevant to your assignment? Does it relate to your research question?
  • Consider your audience and compare the information source with a variety of sources.
  • Who is the author?
  • What makes this person or organization an authoritative source?
  • When was this information published and is the publication date important to you?
  • Where are they getting their information from?
  • Does it have citations and references?
  • Are they using reputable sources or explaining how they gathered their data?
Reason for Writing
  • The timeliness of the information.
  • Is the information biased?

Adapted from Mandalios, J. (2013). RADAR: An approach for helping students evaluate Internet sourcesJournal of Information Science, 39(4), 470-478.

  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda? Facts can be verified through comparison to several sources. Opinions evolve from the interpretation of facts.
  • Are the author's conclusions or facts supported with references? 
  • Do the authors / sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information within the scope of your topic? Refer back to your research question or central goal.M
  • Does it offer new perspectives (e.g., historical, political, cultural, social, racial, gender, sexual)
  • Does it offer different voices, conflicting viewpoints, or other ways of knowing?
  • Please be aware that library collections encompass works that portray offensive perspectives, serving to document them as evidentiary sources and facilitate ongoing critical analysis of the past and present.
  • Why was the source written?
  • Was the author's purpose to inform, persuade, or to refute a particular idea or point of view?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
  • Is the date of publication appropriate for your topic?
  • Is currency important or are historical perspectives needed?
  • Does your work need a chronology of events over time?
  • Is it important to include seminal works, regardless of date?
  • Does the source bring an equity lens to the topic?
  • Are aspects of I-EDIAA addressed? (Indigeneity, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, Anti-Racism, and Accessibility)
  • Does the author present multiple viewpoints or is it biased?
  • Does the author situate their own positionality? (i.e., their privilege through race, education, income, ability, gender, etc. as a means of framing their research interpretations)
  • Does the source address your topic in depth, only partially, or is it an broad overview? Different levels can be useful.
  • Is the source a useful as a single example or case?
  • Does the source add new information or update other sources?
  • Can the source be cited to substantiate or refute other resources that you have consulted?
  • Consider the author's background, writings, experience, and positionality.
  • There are subject authorities beyond those writing in scholarly journals. For example, Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers are recognized for their expertise.
  • Is the author associated with an organization, institution, cultural, or community group?
  • Who is the publisher? Does it represent the views of specific groups?
  • How is the writing acknowledged by others in the field or community? How do critical reviews rate the work?
  • Are some types of references privileged over others? Does the information draw on collective expertise from a diverse group?
  • Who benefits or is empowered from this perspective?
  • What is the reading and analysis level of the source?
  • Does it align with your knowledge of the subject?
  • What level of evidence is provided in terms of citations or data?
  • Is the resource intended for the general public, scholars, or professionals?