Who is the author? Are they experts in the subject?
Author's credentials and organizational affiliations. (Search for the author online.)
Do their credentials match the topic?
Keep in mind the journalist's source.
Can they be contacted?
Can you find information in the source that tells you how to contact the author directly?
What is the purpose of the source?
To inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade? Which of these might be most valuable to you as a source?
Fact or opinion based?
You need to determine if the article is fact or opinion. (Not everything you read on the internet is true!)
Some sources may be trying to persuade you that something is true.
Honest sources will let you know they're trying to persuade you, like opinion pages of a newspaper.
Less honest sources will try to mask their persuasion.
Questions to consider:
Does it reflect different sides of that argument?
Does it represent all sides equally?
Sources that talk about opposing points of view are often better than those that do not.
Watch out for BIAS:
It's important that sources of objective and impartial.
Look for political, ideological, cultural, or religious favoritism.
Is the source trying to score points against "another side"?
Are the claims/conclusions supported?
Does the author explain his reasoning behind the conclusions?
Is the claim or conclusion supported with facts you can verify? (Check the author's sources!)
Where did you find the info?
What type of source are you looking at? Is it a newspaper? A magazine? A website? A scholarly article? That makes a bit of difference when you're looking for a reliable source. Refer back to the Source Types tab and check the credibility status of your source!
A really good source will tell you where their information came from. In other words, it will have citations! Sometimes it takes the form of a reference or works cited list, and sometimes it will take the form of links.
Where does the money come from?
Sometimes an article is written because the author received money from an organization. Just because a source has a sponsor or is based on monetized research doesn't make it a "bad source"... it just means you need to ask:
Who paid for the research?
Who sponsored the article?
Is there a conflict of interest?
Propaganda is "information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view." (dictionary.com) Ask yourself:
Is the source trying to sell you something?
Does the source promote a particular cause?
Does the source have a biased point of view?
Why would I use the source?
The information should actually relate to your topic.
The information should be written at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs).
Look at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use.
Is this particular source compelling or persuasive?
Is this source well thought-out?
Is this source well-supported?
Why is the source reliable?
Sloppy work may mean inaccurate information. Look for:
A reliable source will not be the *only* source out there that makes a particular claim. If your source is about something with which you're unfamiliar, then you need to do MORE research to make sure the content of your source is reliable!
When was the info created or updated?
Books have a publication date on the title page.
An article's date appears in the search entry in Galileo (and other databases).
A website's date might be tricky to find. Check the top or bottom of the article. Sometimes the main website's date will be at the bottom, but remember, that's the WHOLE site, not the information you're reviewing.
Has new research been done?
An article can be published this year, but based on old information.
Make sure the information contains the most recent research available.
Does it matter to you if it's current?
Generally speaking, the more recent the better when you're considering current events and scientific research. If you're looking at historical information it might not be as important.