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Evaluating Quality of Sources for an Academic Paper

Evaluating Quality of Sources for an Academic Paper

Relevant and quality sources make the heart of your academic essay. Choosing them correctly is extremely important! In fact, when you work in the library and have books and journals at hand, you can be assured that these sources are trustworthy and educational. However, when you are surfing the web, the process becomes trickier. The right and precise keywords decide the outcome of your search – this is the first stage, and the problems usually occur from the very start. Some students perform poorly in this regard, typing something like “American poetry” into the search bar and getting a million of matching results. As you can understand, this million includes sources of different quality, and not all of them are equally suitable for your work. You should perform a small quality check before you use a particular source from that list. How to do that? Let’s discuss it!

How to distinguish great sources?

  • Mind the suggestions of your professor

If your tutor suggests particular sources regarding the assignment – stick to them. Focus on recommended materials and discuss the parameters of using them, if needed. You can ask your professor for some advice in case you have no idea which books are required.

  • Look at the sources cited in the sources you use

Take a look at the works of authors named in the source you process. First, this will give you more relevant books/journals. Second, this will determine the quality of the source you have chosen.

  • Check the affiliation of the website you use

In case you want to use web-pages as sources, make sure to check if the organization has professional status and partnership with reliable organizations. Use non-commercial websites only – avoid those with .com in their address and focus on those with .edu and .org.

  • Mind the level of information and interpretation

There are sources where you find bare facts – encyclopedias or dictionaries. When you need to define a concept, these materials are enough. However, remember that dry information is not enough – you should provide interpretations and reflection.

  • Check the author

Read the author’s bio, analyze the text’s tone, evaluate his/her examples, and define the audience.

  • Consider the shew of sources

What kind of a source is that? Are you reading a small brochure with sketchy or even marketing information? Or is it a giant book published by a reputable issuer? Is the text clear, structured, and professional or embarrassing and superficial?

  • Mind the date

See if the information is current and up-to-date, especially when it comes from the Internet. Compare different mediums and choose the fresher one.


Be cautious when using your papers’ sources – make sure that they are reputable, relevant, and fresh. When you retrieve information from the web, check if the chosen website is educational and informative. Avoid sources created for self-promotion and written in vague language. If you have difficulties when choosing sources for your work – consult with your professor and ask for advice. Have patience when picking sources, and good luck with your writing!

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