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Choosing and evaluating your sources

Choosing the right sources to support your argument is critical to the success of any essay or research project. Not only is it important to choose high quality sources, it is also important to consider what type of source is the best match for the information you need. This guide will help you understand the range of information you might use for your research paper, but also how to critically evaluate what you find to ensure that it is credible

Evaluating sources for credibility

Key questions when evaluating resources

Overview of types of sources

Scholarly Articles

(For tips on finding and identifying scholarly articles, check out our FAQs)




  • Scholarly articles report on new research findings.
  • They are written by experts and reviewed by experts before they are published (peer review).
  • They list their sources so that you can judge the quality of their evidence (list of references).


  • They are written for experts in the field, so they may use terminology that you are not familiar with. Be patient, give yourself lots of time to read the article, and don’t be afraid to look up unfamiliar words or concepts in a dictionary.

Search tips:

  • Most scholarly articles are not freely available through Google. However, the library pays for access to this material on your behalf. 


Lough, K., & Ashe, I. (2021). Journalism’s visual construction of place in environmental coverage. Newspaper Research Journal42(2), 253–269.

Scholarly Books


  • Books provide a in-depth investigation of a topic
  • Some books are written by experts in the field (e.g. your textbooks) and cite the sources they use.


  • They take a long time to write and publish, so information may not be as current as some other sources.
  • Not all books take scholarly approaches to the topic or cite their sources.
  • Some books do go through a review process involving other experts in the field (e.g. textbooks and books published by university presses or academic publishing companies), but that isn't always the case.

Tips for finding books

  • Not all of the books in the MRU Library are scholarly - look for ones that list the authors and what universities they are affiliated with, and provide references throughout. Use LibrarySearch to search for both print and electronic books in our collection.


Moore, E. (2018). Journalism, politics, and the Dakota access pipeline: Standing Rock and the framing of injustice. Routledge.

Scholarly Encyclopedias


  • Scholarly encyclopedia articles provide you with a brief, broad overview of a particular topic or issue. They are particularly helpful in providing you with additional keywords you can use to search for scholarly articles or books.


  • Because they are brief, they can only provide you with limited information.


Riches, C., & Stalker, P. (2016). Somalia. In A guide to countries of the world. Oxford University Press.

Media Sources (Newspapers, Magazines, Television, etc.)


  • The media is a great place to go for information on current events and local news. It can also be a source of examples of public opinion.


  • The articles do not list where the information came from (no references).
  • The people writing or reporting on the story may not be experts on the topic. This makes it difficult for them to place scientific research in the proper context. For a recent example, read "How Those Bogus Reports on 'Ineffective' Neck Gaiters Got Started" in Scientific American.
  • Sometimes the stories are written or reported in a way to entertain viewers, or persuade the reader to a particular side of the argument.

Search tips:

  • Many media sources are freely available on the internet. Warning: these articles may not be online forever. Visit the News guide for more information on how to find newspaper and magazine articles.

Government, non-governmental organization (NGO), and charitable websites and documents


  • There are a lot of useful sources online, including documents from governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like the United Nations
  • It would be potentially embarrassing for these organizations to post incorrect information, so is some control around what gets published/posted. However, we wouldn't consider them to be peer reviewed.


  • Not all of the pages on government or NGO websites are updated frequently - always check for the date it was last updated.
  • Often these sources do not provide references or citations, or list the authors involved in their creation so we can judge their expertise.
  • Sometimes, government policies clash with the opinions of researchers working in the field (for example, the debate over the expansion of coal mining in Alberta). 

Search tips:

  • Limit your Google search to a particular website using site:

somalia drought only finds results posted on the United Nations website

APA Guides and Resources

The following APA resources will help you cite in-text, create a reference list, and format your paper.


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