Skip to Main Content

ENGLISH 105-8-23: Eco-Fiction and Human Metamorphosis (Carmichael)

Evaluating and Distinguishing Sources

Consider the ACT UP criteria as you review search results and select sources for your research.  These criteria work for all formats (websites, articles, books, videos, and more).


Questions to Ask


  • Who (person, organization, company) created the source?
  • What are their credentials/affiliation or experience that qualify them on this topic?
  •  What editorial process was used to disseminate this resource? Peer review? Journalism?
  • If a website, does the URL provide insight? Examples .gov, .edu, .com, .org, .net


  • Does your topic require current information? If so, when was the source written and published?
  • Has the information been revised or updated recently?


  • How accurate is the information? Can you verify the claims in other resources?
  • Has the information been reviewed? Is there a bibliography?
  • What type of evidence is used to support claims or arguments?


  • Is the information presented to impact your emotions or your reason?
  • Is the purpose to sell? To teach? To persuade? To entertain?
  • Does the point of view appear objective or unbiased?


  • Check the privilege of the author(s). Who is missing from the conversation?
  • Critically evaluate the subject terms associated with each resource you find. How are they described? What are the inherent biases?
  • What is the purpose of the publication? To sell, teach, persuade or entertain?
Adapted from Dawn Stahura, "ACT UP: Evaluating Sources," accessed March 22, 2018,

Not all "articles" are the same! They have different purposes and different "architecture".

  • Original article – information based on original research
  • Case reports – usually of a single case
  • Technical notes -  describe a specific technique or procedure
  • Pictorial essay – teaching article with images
  • Review – detailed analysis of recent research on a specific topic
  • Commentary – short article with author’s personal opinions
  • Editorial – often short review or critique of original articles
  • Letter to the Editor – short & on subject of interest to readers

Peh, WCG and NG, KH. (2008) "Basic Structure and Types of Scientific Papers."
Singapore Medical Journal, 48 (7) : 522-525.

Primary sources provide the raw data you use to support your arguments. Some common types of primary resources include manuscripts, diaries, court cases, maps, data sets, experiment results, news stories, polls, or original research.  One other way to think about primary sources is the author was there.

Secondary sources analyze primary sources, using primary source materials to answer research questions.  Secondary sources may analyze, criticize, interpret or summarize data from primary sources. The most common secondary resources are books, journal articles, or reviews of the literature. 

Depending on the subject in which you are doing your research, what counts as a primary or secondary source can vary!  Here are some examples of types of sources that relate to dragons in different disciplines:

If your class is in... Primary Source Example Secondary Source Example
English Beowulf More About the Fight With the Dragon
Anthropology Pottery Design Depicting a Dragon, Artefact from Peru (search for "pottery dragon" ) Encounters with Dragons: The Stones from Chavin
Biology Dragon's Blood Exerts Cardio-Protection Against Myocardial Injury... Dragon's Blood Secretion and Its Ecological Significance

There are many types of primary resources, so it is important to define your parameters by:

  • Discipline (e.g. art, history, physics, political science)
  • Format (e.g. book, manuscript, map, photograph)
  • Type of information you need (e.g. numerical data, images, polls, government reports, letters)
  • Date range

Look at the Primary and Secondary Sources guide for more clarification on what primary and secondary sources are in different disciplines!