Evaluating Sources: What do I Need to Know?

This guide will help you learn to evaluate information from internet sources, which is an important aspect of information literacy. The skills you learn here will help you determine if a source found on the open web (website, blog, video etc…) has credibility and is appropriate to use for a paper, assignment, or personal reference by using the "lateral reading method."

The internet is a big place and anyone can make a website and put information on it, but that does not mean it is credible information.

  • That does NOT mean that you should not use internet resources.
  • What it DOES mean is that you should be evaluating internet resources carefully before including them as a source in a paper or assignment.

Keep in mind that just because you evaluate a web source and determine that it is credible, you still need to check with your instructor to find out if internet sources are acceptable.


Accuracy: Refers to the trustworthiness of a source of information. Factors such as has it been peer reviewed, whether its fact or opinion, where it originated from, and level of bias all speak to a sources accuracy.

Authority: refers to the credibility of the author, publisher, or source of information. A source has authority if its authenticity is recognized by other experts in the field.

Bias: Disproportionate weight in favor of or against an idea or thing, usually in a way that is unfair.

Credibility: The quality of being a trusted and reliable source of information.

Currency: Refers to how recent the source of information is; the older the source the more likely it is to be outdated information.

Information Literacy: The ability to find, understand, use, organize, and communicate information in all its formats.

Peer Reviewed: A source of information that has been written by an expert in the field and reviewed by other experts in that same field. Peer reviewed sources are highly credible.

Purpose: Refers to the intent of the source of information such as why it has been published and whether it is objective or bias.

Vertical Reading: Making judgements about the source of information based on internal factors such as URL, content, design etc.... Vertical reading is the opposite of "lateral reading."

Lateral Reading: Your Method to Evaluating Sources

Lateral reading is evaluating information for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose by finding out what other sources have to say. In other words, you are evaluating the information on one website by checking other websites. Lateral reading is the opposite of "vertical reading."

Watch the two videos below to learn more about Lateral reading:


Stanford History Education Group. (2020, January 16). Sort fact from fiction online with lateral reading

[Video]. YouTube. 

To summarize, if you want to read laterally you:

  • Open multiple tabs in your web browser.
  • Do a Google search in each tab (yes we are telling you to Google it) on the source you are evaluating.
  • Read what other sites are saying about your source.
  • Try and find 3-5 other sites that discuss your source. If you cannot find 3-5 sites it is sign that your source may be non-credible.


CrashCourse. (2019, January 22). Check yourself with lateral reading: Crash course navigating digital

information #3 [Video]. YouTube.