Skip to Main Content

COM-231 Public Speaking: Source Evaluation

A Guide to Research at Surry Community College







When was this information published?
Is it out of date?
If it’s a website, has it been updated recently?

The information is less than 5 years old

The information is older, but not necessarily out of date (some topic sight not need extremely up to date info)

The information is clearly out of date for the topic

It is unclear when the information was published

What are the author’s credentials?
What makes them an expert on this topic?

The author has credentials that show they are an expert in this topic (they might have a degree in this field, work at a university, have experience with this topic, etc.)

The author is a qualified journalist, OR This information was written by a known organization (known = most people are aware of that organization)

The author is not an expert but has some knowledge in the topic (a student, a fan, a

It is unclear who wrote this information OR The author is not qualified to write on this topic

Who or what published this source?
Are they reputable and credible?

Published by a
scholarly journal, the
U.S. government, or
a University Press

Published by a known organization (such as the ACLU or the AARP), a university website, a reputable publishing house, a magazine, or a newspaper

Published by a K-12 school or an unknown organization (unknown = most people aren’t aware of it)

Self-published (blogs, personal websites, fan sites, etc.)

Why was this information published?
Does it have an agenda or it is purely informational?

To promote unbiased
scholarship on this
topic. Empirical
research with
unbiased sponsors is

To provide factual knowledge on the topic to adults. Some opinion may be included

To sell something,
persuade someone,
promote an idea, or
provide knowledge to

For personal or entertainment purposes OR To mislead or promote propaganda

Does this source contain well-researched information that directly supports your research and fits your information needs?

The vast majority of
this source contains
information on your

At least 50 percent of the source contains in-depth information on your topic

Only a small part of
the source contains
information on your
Information is not

The source mentions your topic but doesn’t
spend more than a few words on it.

Download the PDF

0-7 points - This source’s information cannot be verified and should not be used in college-level research.
8-10 points - This source is a good starting point for background information, but should not be used as a source in college-level research. Be wary--this source may also have an agenda.
11-12 points - This is an okay source for research, but you may need to back up this source with additional research.
13-15 points - An excellent source for college-level research!

Note: the author and publisher information is especially important! I do not recommend using sources where the author or publisher score lower than 2.