The UVic Writer's Guide


Evaluating Sources For Your Essay


Not all sources are equally valid, nor will you necessarily want to use every source available. Read and evaluate your sources to determine which will provide the strongest and most reliable support for your thesis. There is no need to read every source cover to cover; study the table of contents and the index to see if there is anything useful for your essay.

Consider the reliability of your sources and try to determine if the writer has a particular bias. Note how recent the information is. You would not want to write an essay on heart disease by citing a fourteenth-century medical treatise, although such a source would be pertinent to a discussion of the medieval world view. Try to determine how respected and well-received the source is, although you neednÍt necessarily reject sources which challenge traditional views.

Finally, trust your own reactions to your sources and add these to your notes. Of course, evaluating resources does not mean rejecting anything that contradicts your thesis. A strong essay will acknowledge and account for contradictory evidence.


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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated Wednesday, April 5, 1995