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300-301-MS: Integrative Project - Social Sciences and Social Sciences/Commerce: Evaluating information: The PAARC test

This guide contains Library resources for researching a topic in the social sciences and commerce. It has been created to support the social sciences and commerce Integrative Project course.

The PAARC test

Whether it is a book, journal article, eBook, or website, asking yourself a few simple questions about any source of information will help you decide if what you are looking at is authoritative. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide for yourself, but the PAARC Test (originally developed by the Meriam Library at the University of California, Chico) can help. Try applying the following criteria:


An authoritative source will have a clear, unbiased reason for existing.

  • Are the authors’ purposes and goals clear?
  • Is the source trying to inform, teach, persuade, entertain, or sell a product?
  • Does the language and tone seem unbiased and objective, or is it subjective, emotional, and personal?
  • Is there evidence of bias? Does the source or publisher represent a particular point of view?
  • Is it possible to determine who funds the organization that produced the source? Does the author or publisher stand to gain something for the position they chose on the topic?
  • Are there excessive amounts of advertisements?


Sources that try to elicit emotional responses, or that are largely based on anecdotes and personal experiences are unreliable. Sources with excessive amounts of ads tend to be less reliable as well as more likely to be biased. Sometimes more research is needed to find out if the author or publisher was paid to support a position, or supports their position based on belief rather than facts or evidence. When looking at websites in particular, check the “About” page of a publisher as well as other sources from the same publisher to determine their goals. Look for other resources by the same author, or other sources on the same topic to determine is your source is biased.


An authoritative source will identify its authors and their credentials.

  • Is the author of the text clearly indicated?
  • Are the author’s credentials (degree, profession, experience, etc. . .) indicated?
  • Are the author’s credentials relevant to the topic?
  • Does the author have any particular organizational affiliations (universities, government, etc. . . )?
  • Does the author or publisher provide any contact information (e-mail, telephone, mailing address)?
  • For websites: Does the URL reveal anything about the author or host (eg: .com, .edu, .org,


If no author is named (personal or corporate) and the source isn’t reputable (such as from a university, government, or a well-known publisher/organization) then the source is not reliable and you should look for other sources on your topic. Even if the author is named, check their credentials to see if they are knowledgeable about the topic or experienced in their field. If the information is not provided, then you can search online for more information about the author. Authors that include contact information tend to be more reliable since they can be held accountable for their work, although contact information alone doesn't necessarily guarantee reliability either.


An authoritative source will provide reliable, correct information.

  • What is the source of the information provided?
  • Does the source provide evidence to back up its claims? Can this evidence be independently verified in other sources (references, links, etc. . . )?
  • Is the text free from spelling, grammar or typographical errors? Is the source free from factual errors?
  • Is there anything else suspicious about the source?
  • For websites: Is the host of the page clearly identified? Is the host well-known and can the host’s identity be independently verified (e.g. via Google)?
  • For scholarly sources: has the information been peer-reviewed?


Resources that do not have any references or links are not considered reliable since there is no way to verify the information provided. Even if there are references or links you need to make sure that they lead to legitimate resources (e.g. not dead links for an online source) or other unreliable sources. Additionally, sources that have a lot of errors are not reliable. If you find that the source is suspicious for any reason, find other resources on the same topic to compare information before relying on it.


In addition to being authoritative, a source must also be relevant to your particular needs.

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question(s)?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is the text at an appropriate level for academic research?
  • Have you looked at a range of sources before determining this is the one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable citing this source in a research paper?


Titles can be misleading, so read sections of your source before deciding if it is relevant and appropriate for your needs. For articles and websites, read the summary, abstract or introduction. For books and eBooks check the table of contents, index or introduction.


The timeliness of the information provided by a source can be very important.

  • Is the date of publication indicated?
  • Is the date when the source was last revised or updated indicated? Was it updated recently?
  • Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?
  • Is there more recent information on the topic, and if so does it differ from the information provided in the source you are evaluating?
  • For websites: are the links on the page up-to-date? Do they function properly?


Always check the whole source for the date since the location can vary. Sources that do not have any dates listed tend to be less reliable. With sources that are more than 5 years old, or that do not have dates listed, always check to see if there are more recent sources about your topic and compare them with your initial source to determine if it’s still relevant and appropriate.

If a source passes all the questions listed above, then it should be reliable. If you are trying to evaluate a source, but you’re still not sure that it’s reliable after using this guide, don’t hesitate to ask a librarian for help!

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