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UGS 302: Fashion, Beauty & Culture / Wilson

Evaluate Sources

Evaluate All Sources

It is up to you to determine the credibility and relevance of any source, whether you find it with a Google search, in the library or on social media.  Remember that the credibility and relevance of a source depends on your purpose. 

1. Before you search, consider the purpose of your search, who your audience is and what would make credible evidence. By doing so, you'll know what source type you need and which tool you should use to find it.

  • Example: you are writing a scholarly paper for your Psych class about the impact of Covid-19 on college student's mental health. Your audience is an academic one (your professor and classmates) and scholarly, peer-reviewed articles you find in Library databases are considered credible evidence for academic audiences. 
  • Example: you and your friends are feeling stressed out by the pandemic and you want to find practical suggestions of what you can do to share with them. You audience is your friends (non-experts) looking for some practical suggestions that have worked for other people. Health and wellness blogs, social media accounts, magazines and websites would provide you with this kind of information and seeing reviews from other people like you would help you determine if you want to try out the approach suggested.

Step 2: When you find a source, dig in deeply. Find out everything you can about that source, including who wrote it and what their expertise is to write about the source. Look at where and why it was published/posted/hosted and consider whether that has any impact on how biased the source is. Check to see where they got their information and determine whether you think their information sources are credible. Check to see when it was published/posted. Is it outdated or current enough for your purposes?

  • Example: For your class paper about the impact of Covid on college students' mental health, you search a library psychology database and find an article relevant to your topic. The author is a psychology professor and the article is from a peer-reviewed journal. The sources the author used, listed in the bibliography, include original data the professor collected for the research and other peer-reviewed articles. It was published two months ago
  • Example:. You find an Instagram influencer who suggest a mediation app for dealing with pandemic stress. Nothing about the app would cause you bodily harm and lots of followers of this account are commenting that it is working for them. The post is a week old.

Step 3: Read laterally, like a fact checker. Now that you've dug deeply into the source itself, leave the source and look elsewhere. What are other people saying/writing about the topic? Can you corroborate? Is there controversy?  Is there newer information that would impact your trust in that source? Did you learn anything about the author hat make you question their expertise?

  • Example: You keep searching the scholarly literature for your topic and find more articles that are in alignment with the first one you found. You also learn from the University website where the author works that they have spent their career specializing in the impact of pandemics on adolescent mental health.
  • Example: You go to the app store and the app has thousands of downloads and great reviews. You also read a few articles on health websites from college mental health centers about the benefits of meditation for pandemic-induced stress. You find out that the influencer is being paid to promote the app but based on everything you've seen about it, you don't feel that bias means the app is problematic.

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What is Scholarly/Peer-Reveiwed?

You may be asked to look for peer-reviewed, research, scholarly, referred or academic articles - all names for the same type of source. What are they? These articles go through the  peer-review process before they are published. A scholar/researcher/professor submits their article to a journal and it is 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 articles don't go through. 

 

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

  1. access the database
  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

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