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Scholarly Writing: Evaluating Authority

Evaluating Authority

When evaluation authority of a source, you will undoubtedly come across a variety of sources that provide you with helpful information for your research. Before deciding to use a source in your scholarly writing, you should evaluate it using the following criteria. Following each criteria are a number of questions to help you determine whether a source should be used. 


  • When was the source published?
  • Have there been updates or revisions?
  • If online, do the links work?
  • When was the source last updated, if at all?
  • Is the information limited to a certain period of time?
  • Is the information the kind that needs to be updated frequently?


  • What kind of source are you looking at (e.g. editorial newspaper article may not be as reliable as an expert's published journal article)?
  • Does the author provide evidence to support their claims?
  • Does the author provide citations to their sources? Are the sources cited trustworthy?
  • Has the information been reviewed? If so, by who?
  • Are you able to corroborate or verify the information being presented from another source?
  • Is the information free of grammar, spelling, mechanical, or other obvious errors?


  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials, education, training, and experience?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic presented?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net
  • If an organization, is the organization well-known and respected?


  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Is the purpose for writing the information clear?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, personal, or other biases?


  • Which aspects of the subject are covered and which are left out?

  • Is the level of detail provided appropriate?