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Discover information resources for students and researchers in Nursing

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating sources is essential for maintaining the quality, integrity, and relevance of your research work or assignments. It's a critical step in the process that ensures your work is well-informed, trustworthy, and effective. The following sections offer suggestions and tools to help you evaluate sources of information.

For Critical Appraisal in Evidence Based Practice see the Critical Appraisal page in Systematic Reviews for Health Sciences and Medicine guide.

Resources and tools

Characteristics such as writing style, vocabulary, and motive can help you judge how useful and trustworthy a source is for your particular information need. The characteristics listed below mean that scholarly sources are more likely to be trustworthy and accurate sources of information:

Scholarly Sources
Popular Sources

Written by experts in a particular discipline for other experts in the same discipline. Also referred to as peer reviewed sources or refereed sources

Written for the general public. Examples include magazine or newspaper articles, popular books, websites etc.

Writing Style

Objective, neutral and factual

Usually informal and sometimes sensationalised or dramatised


To inform. Conclusions are supported by facts and by references to other publications.

Often to inform but sometimes to persuade, to make you feel emotional about an issue or to sell you something.                           


Usually highly technical and discipline specific.

Simple and easily understood by the general public.


Authors names, affiliations and contact information are provided. Authors usually work for academic or research institutions where an advanced degree (such as a PhD) is required for employment.

Authors are not always named. Authors may not have any particular expertise on the topic they are writing about.

Editorial Process

Content is vetted through a peer review process before publication to ensure accuracy and trustworthiness.

Content may be edited for grammar and style. Content may be fact checked but is not put through a peer review process.


Because of the characteristics above, scholarly sources are more likely to be trustworthy and accurate sources of information.

Because of the characteristics above, you should be cautious of the trustworthiness of popular sources.

Modified from 


You may be asked to use peer reviewed journal articles (sometimes called refereed articles or scholarly articles) for your assignment.

Peer reviewed articles: 

  • have been reviewed by other academics ("peers") in the same field prior to publication
  • are considered to be of a high standard
  • are published in peer reviewed journals

Searching for peer reviewed articles

To search for peer reviewed articles, you can:

1. Use a scholarly database for your search.
For example, Scopus and Web of Science are two multidisciplinary databases that only search peer reviewed articles.

2. Limit your database search to peer reviewed articles only.
Most other databases have an option to limit your results to peer reviewed articles.



Determining if an article is peer reviewed

If you have found a useful article and you want to check if the journal it was published in is peer reviewed, you can:

1. Look up the journal name in UlrichsWeb Global Serials Database, which is a database of all the journals published in the world. 

  • Search for the title of the journal that published the article (don't search for the title of the article).
  • If the journal is peer reviewed it will have a symbol of a referee's striped jumper next to it.


2. Check the journal's official website. 

  • Search online for the official website of the journal (not the article).
  • Most journals will have an 'About' or 'Submissions' page which should tell you if the journal is peer reviewed.



What to look for in books and journals
What to look for in Websites

Does the paper/assignment require the most current information, historical information or information over a period of time?                                        

If you are researching a topic that is currently in the news, you may want only the most recent information. If you are researching a historical event, you may want information written at the time of the event.

For books: What is the copyright date on the reverse of the title page? Does it meet your needs? Is this the most recent edition?

For journals: Does the publication date meet your needs?

Does the paper/assignment require the most current information, historical information of information over a period of time?

When was the website published or created? Look for the copyright date on the homepage.

When was the site last updated or revised?

Are the links up to date?                                                                


What are the author's credentials and reputation?

What other works on the subject has the author written?

Is the author an expert or researcher in the field?

Has the author been cited by your lecturer?

Has the author been cited in other publications you have read?

Who is supplying the information?

Is it an educational institution (.edu), government agency (.gov), commercial supplier ( or a non-profit organisation (.org)

Is the supplier a reputable organisation? Look at the About Us link

Is there an author or contact person named? What are the author's credentials?

Has the site been reviewed by experts or professional organisations?


If the information is not current, is it still accurate?

Can the information be verified or supported by other sources? Do other sources report the same findings?

Is evidence given to support the information?

Are sources of factual information cited?

Are sources of information cited?

Compared to other sources, is the information complete and accurate? Are the links also complete and accurate or are there discrepancies?

Does the site appear carefully edited or are there typographical errors?


Who is the intended audience? Researchers, experts, trade, professionals or general public?

Is the source appropriate for your needs or is it too technical, advanced or simple?

Who is the intended audience? Researchers, experts, trade, professionals or general public?

Is the source appropriate for your needs or is it too technical, advanced or full of jargon?

Point of view/Bias

Does the source have a particular bias?

Does it promote the ideas of a particular group?

Is the information objective or partial?

Is the information factual or interpretations of facts?

Are there assumptions and opinions stated?

Does the information appear to be filtered or is it free from bias?

Could the organisation sponsoring the site have a stake in how the information is presented?

Is the site free of advertisements?

Are various points of view, theories, techniques or schools of thought offered?


Is it for academic purposes or entertainment?

How closely does the book or journal relate to the purpose for which you need the information?

What is the purpose of the site or article?

Is it to share new scholarly research?

Is it to report developments in an evolving new story?

How closely does the website relate to the purpose for which you need the information?

This work is adapted from Evaluating Information Rubric by Penn State University Libraries and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.




The CRAAP Test can help you determine if a source you have found is reliable and relevant. 



The timeliness of the information
  • When was the information published or posted? Look for publication dates for books or journals and creation dates for webpages
  • Has the information been revised or updated? For information that is continually being updated, check to see if something more recent has been published
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well? If research changes rapidly in your field, or you need the most up-to-date research then more recent sources should be prioritised. However, some older research might underpin current theories on certain topics and should not be discounted. The history of treatments for certain conditions may not have changed and can still provide context today so should be included. Think carefully about your topic before including date limitations.
  • Are the links functional?



The importance of the information for your needs
  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?



The source of the information
  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? Is the website affiliated with a university, government department, or other organisation?



The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content
  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors?



The reason the information exists
  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional or personal biases?


Further Resources

Test yourself with the CRAAP game from Federation University

Developed by Flinders University, the AACODS Checklist is a useful tool for appraising grey literature and is summarised below.

Download the full AACODS Checklist


Who is responsible for the intellectual content? Are they associated with a reputable organisation? What are their qualifications or experience?


Is there a clearly stated aim or brief? Is the methodology stated? Is it representative of work in the field?


Does the work refer to a particular population group? Does it exclude a particular population group? Does it answer a particular question?


Is there any unstated or unacknowledged bias? Does the work seemed balanced?


Does the work have a clearly stated date? Can a date be ascertained by checking a bibliography? What is the reason for the absence of a date?


This is a value judgement. Does the work add anything unique to the research? Does it add context? Does it strengthen or refute a current position?

Further Resources

Download the full AACODS Checklist

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