Source criticism

In a series of posts, the library will go through some key parts of the concept source evaluation and provide tips on how you can review and evaluate information to assess whether a source is relevant and credible.

Check the source

You need to be a little critical and think about whether the website or the post that your friend shared is trustworthy or just something that was created by someone to fulfill a certain purpose. Is the source objective? How can you find out? There are some things to keep in mind, first and foremost: Who / what is the origin of the source? The following questions will also be helpful when you're trying to make sure that a source is reliable.

Who / what is the origin of the source?

Always try to find the person or organization behind the information you have come across:

  • Is it a government agency or other organization?
  • Is it a company or maybe a person?
  • Is it someone who knows the subject, like an academic expert or a practical expert?
  • Do you find the person / organization trustworthy?

Why is the source created?

If you have managed to find out who is behind the source, you should also think about why the source is made:

  • Is it to inform about something or is it just a fabrication?
  • Is someone trying to spread an opinion about something or someone?
  • Is someone trying to sell something?
  • Who is the target for the information?

What does the source look like?

It is also good to look at what the source looks like when it comes to content, formatting and layout. Does the content seem reasonable?

  • Is there any contact information and are the links working?
  • Does it appear to have credible source references?
  • How old is the information?
  • Is there a last reviewed date?

Can you compare with other sources?

You can also consider whether you can obtain information from other places that matches the information you have just received. Never trust only ONE source.

  • Is there other credible information that backs up claims in what you read?

Think before you share

Hopefully you now feel a bit more secure on what to keep in mind when you are trying to find out how reliable a source is. When you are critical of what you read you also minimize the risk of spreading incorrect information yourself. Bear in mind that your friends trust you, take care not to help deceive them.

To be critical of information is a skill or a mind set that is always good to have, but in the current situation with the war in Ukraine it's important to stay alert and be critical of all the different information you read about the situation. 

The next part in the series on source evaluation will be about intentionally misleading sources.

Read more

If you want to learn more you can for example read about source evaluation at (a webpage with emergency information from Swedish Authorities).