Skip to main content

Astronomy: Evaluating Sources

How to Use Wikipedia

wikipedia logo

Even if  your instructor has told you not to usu Wikipedia  as a source, it may still be used to find other sources through the References, Further Reading, and External Links at the end of the articles.

  • Wikipedia and other encyclopedias (whether in print or online) do not qualify as scholarly resources. 
  • Encyclopedias are a good place to start your research, but not are generally not considered acceptable sources to cite.
  • The collaborative and dynamic nature of Wikipedia presents a number of additional concerns regarding the quality and authority of the entries. 

How do I determine if a website is reliable?


Adapted from the Meriam Library, California State University, Chico

Currency: Timeliness of the information

When was the information published or posted?  Has the information been revised or updated?  Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

Who is the intended audience?  Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs?) Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Authority: The source of the information

Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?  What are the author’s credentials or organization affiliations?  Is the author qualified to write on the topic?  Does the url say anything about the source?

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content.

Where does the information come from?  Is the information supported by evidence?  Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

What is the purpose of the information?  Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?  Do the authors make their intentions or purpose clear?  Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?  Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Astronomy Evaluating Websites Exercise

Evaluating Information Sources

eye glass

Information comes from various sources: books, websites, news programs, journal articles, tweets, etc. You need to determine if the information you have found is credible and reliable.  To do this you need to focus on the content, context and quality of the information. One way to evaluate information is using the CRAAP TEST to help you determine if your source is credible.