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Community and Regional Planning

Evaluate Sources


"The set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. . . . Students must demonstrate competencies in formulating research questions and in their ability to use information as well as an understanding of ethical and legal issues surrounding information. This requires a campus culture of collaboration and focus on student learning."

A compelling research question provides structure to research. Your thesis statement can be thought of as the one sentence answer to this question; the rest of your paper or project is an explanation of that answer. A good research question:

  • Contains parameters (boundaries). For example, "Why did witchcraft trials stop?" is a good start to a research question, but "How did agricultural developments in seventeenth century England lead to the decline of witchcraft trials in that country?" is stronger because it contains more parameters.
  • Is controversial, meaning that there are multiple possible answers.
  • Is interesting to you!

Your research question will help you determine what sources to use.

Inclination, leaning, prejudice, predisposition

A biased source is one in which the creator has a view of the issue at hand that had an effect on how they created the source. From the synonyms above, you can see that this can be to a small or large degree. Everyone has biases, and someone with a bias can still write a worthwhile source, but it is up to you to consider how much of a bias is present. Be aware of the biases inherent when an organization has a legislative agenda or is trying to sell something. 

Peer review is a process scholarly articles go through before they are published. Scholarly articles are sent to other experts in the field (peers) to ensure that they contain high-quality, original research important to the field. This is a measure of quality control other types of literature don't go through. 


If you can't tell whether or not a journal is peer-reviewed, check Ulrichsweb.

  1. Log into Ulrichweb.
  2. Type in the title of the journal.
  3. Peer-reviewed journals will have a referee jersey ("refereed" is another term for "peer-reviewed") - example below


This guide is intended to help students evaluate online sources. This is an important part of information literacy. In this context, online sources are defined as sources found outside of the UT Libraries website and databases. Basically, we want to help you determine whether or not an online source (i.e. website, blog, YouTube video, social media post, etc.) is credible.

While on the surface this may seem to be an easy thing to do, it becomes more complicated once you begin to consider the many factors that come into play. We will dig more into this in each of the tabs located to the left, but broadly speaking credibility comes down to a few, sometimes-hard-to-answer questions:

  • What is the compelling research question are you trying to answer?
  • Who or what authored this source and what is their background/biases?
  • Where did they get their information?*

(*Hint: No one automatically knows the facts about a topic. If the author of your source is trying to tell you facts about something and does not indicate where they got their information, that is a big red flag! The one possible exception to this is if someone is describing their personal experience. For more information about the role of personal experience in evaluating online information, see the Authorship tab.)

The library staff at UT want you to have the ability to evaluate online information because:

  • You will be able to determine what sources to use on your classroom assignments. That means avoiding getting a bad grade because your instructor asked for a scholarly article and you gave them a blog post because you weren't sure what peer review is.
  • People who can analyze the information others give to them are more informed consumers and citizens. If you see a tweet about a politician engaging in shady activities, you should want to know the truth of the matter before you join the crowd!

What Type of Source is It?

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