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St. Clair County Community College Library

Math 217 Prof. Bedard

Evaluating Sources

Carefully evaluate all information, whether from a book, article, or website, by asking the following questions:

  • Who?  Who is the author of this source?
    • Are they qualified to write/speak on the subject?
    • Do you detect any bias on the author’s part in relation to the subject?
  • What? What is the source?
    • Does it have a title?
    • Is it a primary source, such as an original document or creative work or is it a secondary source, such as a report or analysis of primary sources?
    • Is it authoritative or trustworthy?
  • How?
    • How was the source produced?
    • Who is the publisher or sponsoring organization?
  • Where did you find the source?
    • Was it through a library’s databases or through an internet search engine that may list results in a biased or weighted manner?
  • When was the source published?
    • Has it been replaced or updated?

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., The Modern Language Association, 2016, pp. 11-12.

MLA also provides this great checklist for evaluating sources. 



Investigate the author/producer - Lateral Reading

Searching for information about the author or organization responsible for the website, article, or book is an excellent way of evaluating sources. This method is called lateral reading. 

  • Google the author or organization responsible for posting the information. 
  • Search the author/organization in the library's OneSearch box. 

The video "Lateral Reading" created by Robert Detmering, Amber Willenborg, and Terri Holtze from the University of Louisville Libraries presents useful ideas. The video is about four minutes long. The UL website also has a nifty handout you may want to download.

A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science handout


Brunning, Andy. "A Rough Guide to Spotting Bad Science." Ci: Compound Interest, Andy Brunning/Compound Interest, 2017, Accessed 7 Dec. 2017.


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