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FYS: What Actually Matters (M. Marshall)

Philosophy Resources

Evaluating Sources

Authority - Who wrote it?

  • Is the author credible? How do you know? What are the author’s credentials (author’s education, profession, publishing history)?
  • If the source does not identify an author, consider whether this impacts the source’s reliability.

Purpose - Why was it written?

  • Was it written for profit or to advance knowledge?

Relevance - Is it relevant to your topic?

  • Is the source too broad or too narrow to apply to your topic?
  • Who is the intended audience? Examine the tone, language, and content of the source.
  • If the source is a journal, is the journal title descriptive or specialized, indicating it was written for a particular discipline (e.g. Journal of Moral Philosophy)?
  • Are the source’s subject terms appropriately specific for your topic?

Validity - Is it well-grounded and scholarly?

  • Does the author’s evidence support or refute the author’s argument?
  • Is the author’s evidence objective research and not an editorial opinion?
  • Does the author tell you where they got their information by citing sources?
  • If the source is an article, is it longer than a page or two?
  • Peer-reviewed articles: A peer-reviewed article is a type of scholarly publication evaluated by field experts and approved before publication. Some instructors require that you use “scholarly peer-reviewed articles,” so remember that not all scholarly articles are “peer-reviewed.”
  • Do any pictures or graphs support the text?


Adapted from “Is It Scholarly?”, Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, “How Do I,” CC BY 3.0. University Libraries CU-Boulder,

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