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LibrarySkills@UCL: Evaluating information

A guide to evaluating sources of information.

Getting Started

At any stage of your academic journey, you need to be able to verify the information you use in your research and writing. When you're getting started you should aim to:

  • Understand which are the key authoritative resources for your subject.
  • Think critically about information to decide whether it is suitable for your academic work.

Authoritative resources

When you want to find some information, it can be tempting to go straight to Google. This may be the best resource, depending on why you want that information, but when searching for information to support your academic work you should consider other, authoritative resources, first. 

What do we mean by authoritative resources?

Authoritative, or credible, resources contain reliable, high quality information. This is usually because it has gone through some process of selection based on quality criteria.

Often library resources will contain only peer reviewed material, for example, which means that it has been assessed by experts in the relevant field to ensure it is reliable.

How do I know which resources to use?

A great place to start is Explore, UCL's library catalogue and gateway to online resources. Also look on our subject guides for authoritative resources for your subject.

If you do decide to use a search engine, like Google, then it's important that you think critically about the information you have found to establish if it is a source you should use.

Thinking critically about information

Think critically about any information you find and make a judgment as to whether it is appropriate to use in the academic context. Consider:

  • Who wrote it? Can you determine whether they are an authority in that field?
  • When was it written? If information is not up to date it may not be appropriate.
  • Why was it written? Is the information presenting a non-biased viewpoint, or does it have another motive, such as trying to sell something or make a political statement.