1. Who is the author?
What credentials does the author have? If an individual author is not named who is the editor or sponsor? If the source is a web site, is there a link to a "home page" to see who is sponsoring the page?
2. What date was the information published and/or updated?
Is your topic time-sensitive so that you can only use the most updated information or is your topic more historically oriented
3. Are there any special features such as a "works cited" to back up the information?
If there's not an actual "works cited," are there any internal references to other sources? If yes, what kind of sources are they? Do these sources supplement the information given?
4. What is the overall purpose and tone?
Who is the intended audience? If the source is a web site, you can check the domain name for clues (.edu, .org, .com, .mil, .net) to determine what type of page this might be. Is there an "about" or "what is" link from either the information page or the "home page" that outlines the purpose of the pages? See Who Do You Trust? for info on scholarship v. propaganda.
5. What type of actual content are you getting?
To what depth does the source cover the topic? Does it seem to be a "surface" treatment? Are you getting a background overview, thorough coverage or an in-depth analysis for specific aspects of your topic?
6. Based on your answers to questions 1-5, do you still feel confident in using the source for your particular research needs? Why or why not?
7. Here are some references that show how to check if a resource is reliable enough to support your research.
Criteria to Evaluate the Credibility of WWW Resources
illustrates how to determine the validity of a web source.
Examining & Evaluating Reference Sources: A Hands-on Approach
provides a quick guide to evaluating both web and book sources.
Scholarly v. Popular Articles
shows the differences between scholarly journals and popular
Using Primary Sources on the Web
focuses on finding, evaluating, and citing Internet sources.
Helpful web sites from various academic institutions: