Skip to Main Content

Library Services



LibrarySkills@UCL: Evaluating information

A guide to evaluating sources of information.


How do you know that you're using the right sources for your assignment? You will need to think about:

  • How to assess the resources you're using for quality and value
  • Whether resources are authoritative in certain contexts
  • Evaluating different sources for relevance and reliability

Choosing the right resource

It is advisable to start a search for information using resources available through the library, such as Explore or resources from the relevant Subject Guide. Sometimes it may not be obvious as to which is the best resource.

It's important to realise that the validity of a resource is dependent on the context in which you are using it:

  • If you are looking for established, background information, a textbook may be the best resource.
  • For the latest research on a topic a recent journal article may be preferable. 
  • If you are writing about the current political situation in the Middle East, it may be appropriate to make use of newspaper articles.

Think carefully about what the most appropriate resource might be for your purpose.

Also consider whether the resources you select are giving you the full picture. Searching beyond well-known, mainstream resources will support a more balanced, diverse and representative argument. Consider each resource based on its own merits.

Evaluating your sources

There are checklists available which can help you determine if a source of information is reliable. We recommend the following checklists, which both get you to think critically about the source using similar criteria.


  • C: Currency: When was the source published? Is it appropriate in the context to use older material, or is it important that it is current?
  • RRelevance: Is the information relevant to your studies or research? And is it at the right academic level?
  • A: Authority. Who is the author and/or publisher? Are they a trustworthy source?
  • A: Accuracy.: Where does the information come from? Is there evidence? Can it be verified?
  • P: Purpose: Why was the information produced? Is the purpose clear and are there any biases?


  • Presentation: Is the information clearly communicated?. Look at language, layout, structure, etc.
  • Relevance: Does the information match the needs of the searcher? Look at the introduction or overview – what is it mainly about?
  • Objectivity: Is the author’s position of interest made clear? Look for an introduction or overview – do the writers state their position on the issue? Is the language emotive? Are there hidden, vested interests?
  • Method: (Research reports only). Is it clear how the data was collected? Were the methods appropriate? Do you trust it?
  • Provenance: Is it clear where the information has come from? Can you identify the authors or organisations? How was it published?
  • Timeliness: Is it clear when the information was produced? Does the date of the information meet your requirements? Is it obsolete?