Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

AP Psychology | M. Hodgin

Evaluate Sources

Apply the P.R.O.V.E.N. test to help you evaluate the sources you find:

Purpose: How and why the source was created.

Relevance: The value of the source for your needs.

Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information.

Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information.

Expertise: The authority of the creators of the source.

Newness: The age of the information.

Evaluating information / Types of information

For this assignment -- and for any academic work -- it is important to find and cite appropriate and credible information resources. Here is a list of some different types of resources along with notes on their usefulness and credibility:

  • Reference Books: Summaries and overviews of topics. Information generally vetted by editors who are knowledgeable in a field. Examples: Britannica Online; Gale Virtual Reference Library; general and subject-specific encyclopedias.
  • Books: Most books in the library come from reputable publishers and are hand-picked by NMH librarians to support your work here. Out in the wider world, some books come from less reputable publishers or are self-published, which means that you need to carefully evaluate the information that you find in them.
  • Scholarly journals: Academic research written by and for experts in a field. Typically peer-reviewed (reviewed by a panel of experts) to ensure accuracy, methodological soundness, etc.  Articles contain bibliographies and references. Often extremely specific/narrow in scope. Very high-quality information, but not always easy to understand for non-experts. Examples: Science, Current History, Journal of Social Psychology, New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Substantive magazines/newspapers: Articles written primarily to inform or analyze; authors may not be experts, but they typically put careful thought and analysis into their pieces, which are also reviewed by editors.

  • Popular and trade magazines: General interest articles written for the public or for people in a profession. Authors may or may not have a background in the topic they are covering. Citations/bibliographies are usually not included. Lots of advertisements. Examples: Psychology Today, Time, People, Rolling Stone.
  • Newspapers: Current information; written for the general public by reporters who are assigned story topics and may not be experts in the field they are covering.
  • Websites/blogs: A mixed bag, ranging from top-quality information to complete bunk. Evaluate carefully; when in doubt, go back and look for a source whose credibility/authority is easier to establish. (Library databases are great for this!)

For information on some of the pitfalls of getting information about health and science from the popular media, check out "Time To Get Rid of Bad Science Journalism," an article on the blog Debunking Denialism.