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PSY105: Introduction to Psychology: Evaluating Sources


Often we seek information that confirms our own thoughts and feelings towards a topic. This is not research. Research and learning comes from finding sources that speak to the truth of a topic, no matter how much it hurts, or does not fit with your current ideas and beliefs.

Only by keeping personal biases in check can you begin to vet information for credibility. These steps will help you find sources that are credible and reliable in your research process.

The Personal Steps: IF I

Identify emotions attached to the topic.

  • What are your honest opinions regarding the topic?

Find unbiased reference sources that will provide a proper and informative overview of the topic.

  • Conduct a general knowledge overview. Search information in: encyclopedias, wikis, dictionaries, etc.


Intellectual courage is needed to seek authoritative voices on the topic that may fall outside your comfort zone or thesis.

  • Identify credible materials for all of the viewpoints- yours and the additional you identified.

The Source Steps: APPLY

Authority established.

  • Does the author have education, experience, and expertise in the field?

Purpose/ Point of view.

  • Does the author have an agenda beyond education or information?


  • Is the publisher scholarly (university press, scholarly association)? Commercial? Government Agency? Self ("vanity") press?

List of sources (bibliography).

  • Is the evidence reliable, sensible, and accessible?

Year of publication.

  • Does the date of publication affect the information?

Information on this page does not fall under the Creative Common License. IF I APPLY was created by Kat Phillips, Eryn Roles, and Sabrina Thomas. For more information, see Penn State University Libraries' IF I APPLY guide.

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