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LibrarySkills@UCL: Evaluating information

A guide to evaluating sources of information.

Independent research

When undertaking independent research, you should consider searching multiple sources of information to ensure a comprehensive and non-biased approach. You will need to think about:

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

  • Searching all the relevant sources. Consider searching beyond well-known, established resources to look for grey literature, unpublished documents, and marginal publications.
  • Assessing each source based on its own merits and whether it is authoritative in the context in which you are using it.
  • Evaluating your sources for relevance and reliability.
  • Use caution when using metrics such as Times Cited, Journal Impact Factor or Author h-index to determine which sources to use. See Bibliometrics.

Choosing the right resource

Your Subject Guide is a great place to start to identify recommended, authoritative sources of information to inform your research. 

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 and widely-used predominantly Western, English-language resources will support a more balanced argument. Consider each resource based on its own merits.

Your subject specialist librarian(s) can provide further support and guidance on selecting resources for your particular area of research.

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?