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IDIS 240: Intro to American Studies: Evaluating Sources

Evaluate

Ask these questions to get a sense for whether your source is reliable:

  • Ask who is responsible for the information.
    Are they qualified to teach you? Why are they providing this information?

  • Ask whether the information is objective.
    Does it present both sides of an issue? Is it designed to persuade you? Does anything about the information seem fishy?

  • Ask how current the information is.
    Views of historical events change over time, and sometimes new sources are discovered. If you're using older sources, consider the context in which it was written, including the political and economic situation. Do newer sources offer any new insights? Do they use different primary sources?

Primary Sources

Think about these questions when evaluating primary sources:

  • Ask who is responsible for the information.
    Who are they? What's their story? Are there things about their life, job, gender, location, or anything else that might impact what they're telling you?

  • Ask who the original audience was.
    Get a sense for why the information was created in the first place. Are you reading letters meant for someone's boss or someone's sweetheart? Is it a private journal or a public newsletter? Are they creating the information for their own benefit, or were they hired? What information might they include, remove, or be less than truthful about depending on the audience?

  • Ask whether other sources match.
    Can you find other primary sources that back up what you're seeing? If they differ, what are possible reasons for the differences? Use other sources to help you uncover biases and different points of view.