Skip to main content

Introduction to Media Theory: MSP 1011

Research help for the course, MSP 1011: Introduction to Media Theory.

Evaluation Criteria

Tilted scalesUse the criteria below to help you evaluate a source. As you do, remember:

  • Each criterion should be considered in the context of your topic or information need. For example, currency changes if you are working on a current event vs. a historical topic.

  • Weigh all four criteria when making your decision. For example, the information may appear accurate, but if the authority is suspect you may want to find a more authoritative site for your information.

  • When in doubt about a source, talk about it with your professor or a librarian.

Criteria to consider:

  1. Currency: When was the information published or last updated? Is it current enough for your topic?
  2. Relevance: Is this the type of information you need (ex. a research study or scholarly article)? Is it related to your topic? Is it detailed enough to help you answer questions on your topic?
  3. Authority: Who is the author or creator of the information (can be an individual or an organization)? Are they an expert on your topic? Has the source been peer reviewed? Who is the publisher? Are they reputable?
  4. Accuracy: Is the information true? What information does the author cite or refer to?  Is this a research study with methods you can follow? Can you find this information anywhere else? Can you find evidence to back it up from another resource? Are studies mentioned but not cited (this would be something to check on)? Can you locate those studies?
  5. Purpose/perspective: What is the purpose of the information? Was it written to sell something or to convince you of something? Is this fact or opinion based? Is it unfairly biased?

Video Tutorials on Evaluating Sources

News Source Spectrum


The Spectrum of News Sources graphic is designed to present a visual representation of news sources – highlighting both their quality and partisanship.  Author Vanessa Otero created the original version of this chart for infrequent readers in order to help them distinguish “between decent news sources and terrible news sources”.  However, frequent and non-frequent readers alike have widely shared and discussed this graphic on social media in the last few weeks.  To highlight this relevant topic of news evaluation, UC Merced library staff adapted this graphic for display.


Though not everyone may agree with the placement of sources on this chart, this graphic is intended to create a rich conversation about the evaluation of news publications.  Of course, the nuances of news coverage cannot be captured in a single graphic.


  • Do you agree with the placement of the news sources on this graph?  Why or why not?
  • What are some of the news sources you read most?
  • How much of your news do you get through friends, family, Facebook or other social media?
  • How do you decide what news sources and news articles are trustworthy?

News spectrum

Content from Elevate Your News Evaluation by UCMerced Library.

Reading & Interpreting Sources

ReadingAfter you have decided that a source is potentially useful, read it carefully and critically, asking yourself the following questions about how this research fits your writing project:

  • How relevant is this material to your research question?
  • Does the source include counterarguments that you should address?
  • How persuasive is the evidence? Does it represent opposing viewpoints fairly? Will the source be convincing to your audience?
  • Will you need to change your thesis to account for this information?
  • What quotations or paraphrases from this source might you want to use?

Adapted from Easy Writer (4th ed.)