Skip to Main Content

How to Conduct Academic Research

This guide provides an introduction to the research process.

Evaluating Sources

You should carefully evaluate all information, whether from a book, article, or website, by asking the following questions.

You can also take SC4 Library's tutorial on evaluating sources.


  • 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.

When evaluating information, it is useful to identify if it's a Primary or Secondarysource. By doing so, you will be able recognize if the author is reporting on his/her own first hand experiences, or relying on the views of others.


primary vs secondary sources


Image: MacMeekin, Mia. "How to Choose a Good Online Source." An Ethical Island, Mar. 2015, Accessed 31 May 2017. This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Lateral Reading

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 Civic Online Reasoning Institute at Stanford University has an excellent explanation of Lateral Reading in "Sort Fact from Fiction Online with Lateral Reading."  The video is under four minutes. The University of Louisville Libraries also has this useful handout about lateral reading.