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SOC 01: Introduction to Sociology

How to Evaluate a Source

When choosing a source to use as part of your response, its important to evaluate the source beyond whether it is "good" or "credible." You should go beyond the information presented on the page, and consider the author, publisher, and context of the source. This allows you to get a better sense of the source, how it fits within the larger scope of its topic, and helps you identify ways you could use that source to strengthen your response.

Lateral Reading Strategies

Before you consider the information presented on the "page"  understand more about the source:

  • See if others have already reviewed or fact-check the source (check Wikipedia, Snopes, Politifact and other such sites)
  • What do you know about the site that published this information? Where did it originally come from? If it has been reposted or shared, you will need to go "upstream" to the original site.
  • What is the reputation of the original publisher? What else have they produced? Ask these questions about the author too (if they are different from the publisher")


Additional Lateral Reading Resources

How to Incorporate a Source into your Response

When evaluating a source, you should also be thinking about how you will incorporate it into your response. Below are a few examples of the most common ways you might incorporate a source:

  • Evidence/Examples- An outside source may add details, statistics or illustrations that support your argument and help develop a deeper meaning. Often, you might choose to use a direct quote from a source to emphasize one of your points, just remember to include an explanation (in your own words) as to why the example/evidence is important to your argument.
  • Added Authority - To build the strength and credibility of your argument, it can be helpful to cite and highlight other authors (just make sure they are reputable and credible themselves. You often will end up extending your argument beyond what the source says, with your own ideas, but the source serves as a strong foundation.
  • Counter Arguments - Acknowledging and citing sources that are counter to your argument, or take a different stance on a topic, gives you the opportunity to provide a more complete analysis. This shows your audience that you have considered multiple viewpoints and have answers to their critiques/concerns.
  • Context or Background - An outside source might help create context for your argument or provide the historical background of an issue or topic. these sources might illustrate a hole in the research or an unexplored line of thinking, that your work will then tackle

Additional Resources: