Skip to main content

Advanced Academic Research: Evaluating resources

Evaluating sources

North Carolina State University Libraries. This video is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license -

CAPOW Evaluation Criteria Checklist


  • What is the publication date or last date updated?
  • Is the content timely, useful, and valid for your information need?


  • Who wrote the content?
  • What makes that individual author or organization qualified to write it? What other information about the author is included?
  • Who sponsored the content?


  • Is the purpose of the content to inform, to entertain, or to promote a product or service? 
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Does the information seem credible? If so, can you check the information against another resource (i.e. book, journal article, newspaper, etc.) for credibility?


  • Is content biased?
  • Are opinions balanced or does the author have an agenda?
  • How does the bias influence the information?

Writing Style




  • Does the information contain a bibliography, references, or a comprehensive list of sources supporting its theme, topic, or agenda?
  • Is content presented at an appropriate level for an academic research paper?
  • Does the supporting information fit your research need?
  • Is the work complete, or is it a summary of other work?


CAPOW evaluation criteria checklist taken from Honors College Co-Curricular Workshops LibGuide, Lone Start College Library, Kingwood, TX.

Search for contact information such as a name, e-mail address, or institution.

Search for the author's credentials:

  • Is the author affiliated with a university, organization, institution, or association? 
  • Search for the author's name in a library database such as Academic Search Complete or WorldCat to find out about whether or not the author has other publications.
  • Search the author's name on Google. Is he or she listed as author of other Web publications? Is there an organization, publisher, or corporate author listed? Who is producing or sponsoring the site? A university? A government agency? An organization? Is the organization profit or nonprofit? Do you see a university or corporate logo? Is the site someone's personal Web page?

For a Web site, look at the site's address. Is the top-level domain .edu, .gov, or .org? These domains indicate that the source is an educational, government, or non-profit institution and may indicate higher reliability, but this does not automatically make it an authoritative or reliable source.

  • If you cannot tell anything about the producer of the site from the page you are on, delete part of the Web address after the main address or first forward slash (/). This will take you to the home page of the site. From there you may be able to find out who is sponsoring it.
  • Many Web sources do not give the identity or credentials of the author or producer. Sources that do not give this information have questionable reliability.

Check a biographical source:

  • There will be many times during your years in college and later in life that you will need to find biographical information about a person. The library has dozens of biographical sources in the reference area. A researcher often doesn't know which one will contain information on the person of interest. Some basic sources to try are the following:
  • Articles: Find articles in databases such as: Literature Resource Center or Academic Search Complete.
  • Encyclopedia articles: Look in general or specialized encyclopedias for a brief summary of an author's life. Use the library catalog to find both print and online encyclopedias.
  • Books: Do a subject search in the library catalog to find print and online books that detail a person's life.

Read a critical review:

  • Book Reviews: A review is a critical evaluation which will often provide information about the author. By reading reviews, you can determine the quality of a book or movie.Books are reviewed in newspapers, magazines, and scholarly journals. Ordinarily a book will be reviewed within a year after it is published, although it may be reviewed later.  The following are two sources for finding book reviews:

The open Web contains a wealth of information published by governments, educational institutions, professional organizations, non-profit groups, commercial enterprises, and private individuals all over the world. Since there are no standards for information quality on the Web, not everything you find will be accurate or appropriate to use as research. Generally speaking, you can locate reliable information on authoritative Web sites, such as:

Government agency and department web site url addresses are identified by the .gov domain suffix:

College and university web site url addresses are identified by the .edu domain suffix:

  • Example: Harvard University
  • Excludes student or faculty pages hosted by the educational institution.  

Professional society and non-profit organization web site url addresses are identified by the .org domain suffix:

Beware, not all .org sites are unbiased. There are organizations with Web sites in this category that exist to promote a specific point of view, for example, Planned ParenthoodNational Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or the National Rifle Association.

Commercial or for-profit company web site url addresses are identified by the .com domain suffix:

If it is not obvious the information comes from an authoritative group, look for links such as "About Us," "Who We Are," or "Our Mission" to evaluate the source.

Check out an excellent guide, Critical Reading Towards Critical Writing, written by Deborah Knott, New College Writing Centre, University of Toronto.  Some of her tips include:

  • Don't read looking only or primarily for information.
  • Do read looking for ways of thinking about the subject matter.

Lee, Samantha and Shana Lebowitz. "20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions." Business Insider, 26 Aug. 2015, 12:38,

"How to Spot Fake News." IFLA, 13 Feb. 2017,