CO 503: Foundations in Communication

Where to Begin?

Evaluating sources means recognizing whether the information you read and include in your research is credible. Despite the large amount of information available, both in print and online, not all of it is valid, useful, or accurate. When writing research papers, not only will you be searching for information, but you will be evaluating the sources for credibility. You have to decide where to look, how to recognize credible sources, and how to cross-check your information. Source: Perdue OWL

Image of a skeptical scale in evaluating sources. From very skeptical (blogs) to much less skeptical (peer reviewed journals).

Image created by Norah Mazel

Fake Checking News

Not sure what information is fake or distorted? Try checking your headline or topic using a fact checker like Politifact or Snopes

For more factcheckers, see Berkeley Library's guide to fact checkers.

Test your ability to identify misinformation by taking a MIST (Misinformation Susceptibility Test)

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Evaluating articles and books. 1. Who is the lead author? Find more information about the author by doing a Google search. See if you can find their personal website or C.V. online. Have they authored anything else? How often are they cited? Are they well-known in the field? 2. Read the Intro. What does the author tell you they want to accomplish? Browse the table of contents. Is your topic covered in-depth? If you are still unsure, read the first few paragraphs to see if it's relevant for your research topic.  3. Who is it for? Consider the audience they wrote for. Is it a general article or written for a particular community or discipline? Does that fit in with your topic?  4. Is the info legit? Is it fact, opinion, or propaganda? If the source appears to be an opinion, does the author offer a reason for adopting that view? Propaganda has an agenda attached to its message. Facts are objective.  5. Check the evidence. Take a look at the evidence provided. Is it a survey? What is the size of the survey? Can the author back up their work? Can you verify the information or sources they provide? 6. When was it written? Is the source outdated? Is newer research available? If it's historical, can you find the primary documents from the time of the event? 7. Check the bibliography. Look at the list of citations provided. There should be enough depth of sources provided. Are the sources related to the article topic? Would they make good sources for your research?

Evaluating Websites

Evaluating Websites Image.  Evaluating digital content will help you navigate through websites. There is so much information available online and discerning between credible sources can be difficult. Almost all journals are now available digitally, as are most government reports. How do you know which sources are okay to use? when was it created? How recent is the work? Whose site is it on? Who is the author? What type of website is it? Is the website on an official government website such as Does the site end which usually is a non-profit? What is the content? What else is on the site? Are there ads or promotional items on the page? Is the site legit? There are many news and government websites that are actually hoax sites made to look like legitimate sites.

Journal Rankings & Citation Counts

Seeing how many times an article has been cited or how many times a particular journal has been cited can help to evaluate the authority of the work you may be deciding to include in your research. 

Use Google Scholar to find out how many times an article has been cited. 

Image of Google Scholar with Citation counts.


Use Scimago Journal & Country Rank (SJR) to see how many times a journal has been cited and its global ranking. 

Image of SJR website with journal total cites.