photo of stacks (lower floor)

VIC171 Methodology, Theory & Practice in the Natural Sciences

Identifying the Best Sources

When you search for information in the library and online, you will find many different publications… but are they the best sources for your assignment?

Currency and Relevance

Currency and relevance refer to the subject of the source, the extent and the content of the source, and the intended audience:

  • When was this source published? Do I need the most current information or analysis on this topic, or is older information appropriate for my needs?
  • Who is this publication geared toward?
  • Does the source provide a basic overview of my topic? Does it place my topic within the context of a larger subject area?
  • Does it cover a time period that I am interested in?
  • Is the article or a book too basic or elementary for my needs? Is it too specialized or technical for my needs?


Authority means the source of the information:

  • Who wrote and/or published this resource?
  • What credentials qualify him/her to write on this topic? What else has he or she written?
  • Do I require scholarly information, or is more popular material also appropriate?


Accuracy refers to the reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content:

  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda? Is the author trying to advance a particular position?
  • Is there a clearly supported argument or is the argument inflammatory and unsupported?
  • Is the publication or organization providing the information known for having a particular philosophical or political position?


Documentation means the sources that the author quotes and/or cites in his or her publication to provide evidence for his or her argument:

  • What sources does the author cite to back up her points?
  • Is a bibliography included with the information?
  • If the information relies heavily on statistics, where did those statistics come from? Were they gathered in a methodologically appropriate manner? Were they pulled from another reputable source?

created by: Agatha Barc | updated: 12 July 2018