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THEA 3700 Porterfield: Evaluating Your Sources

What's an authoritative source?

For your assignments in this course, Dr. Porterfield has asked that you use authoritative sources.


Determining Authority


Evaluating a source can vary depending on where you find it.  Below are questions that you can ask yourself to help you determine if a source is academic/authoritative.


Questions to Ask Yourself:


  • Is the source scholarly or peer-reviewed?
    •  "Peer reviewed" (or "refereed") means that an article is reviewed by experts in that field before the article gets published. 


  • Is the source timely?
    • Timeliness depends on the nature of the assignment. Most databases let you limit the search to articles published within a specified timeframe.


  • Is the source relevant?
    •  The articles you use should be relevant to your research topic and to each other.


  • Where did the source come from?
    • There are many three main types of periodicals: scholarly journals, trade publications, and popular (including magazines and newspapers)


  • Who is the author/publisher?
    • Is the author writing in their discipline or field of expertise? 
    • Is the publisher a professional organization? 

Evaluating authority: Source location

Library Databases 


  • Databases allow you to select a specific time frame and limit to peer-reviewed journals. 
  • Databases provide the option to search by keywords, subject headings to help you find relevant articles. 
  • Information about the publication is often included in database search results. 
  • The database may contain other articles by the author, which can help determine their field of expertise. 



  • Who is the author? 
    • You may need to explore the website or do another search on the Internet. 
    • Are they qualified to write on the topic? 
  • Is the website created by a professional organization? 
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other errors? 


Wikipedia – Not Authoritative

  • Can be a good starting place to help discover keywords to search to find more relevant articles in your database searches.




Not sure if you have an authoritative source? 


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