Skip to content
Home » According to Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, How to Check the Quality of a Source

According to Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab, How to Check the Quality of a Source

The Purdue Online Writing Lab, or OWL, provides undergraduate and graduate students with the resources they need to succeed as scholars and professionals. Established in 1953, OWL has long been recognized as a leader in enhancing student learning and increasing graduation rates. Today, with nearly 140,000 courses and a quarter of a million students using the platform each semester, it is the largest of its kind in the world.

Overview of the Site

The Writing Lab is available to anyone with a Purdue login and access to the internet. It is free for Purdue students and those in fellowship with the university, while general access is available at a discounted rate.

Students can submit their research papers, term projects, and more through the Writing Lab, where peer reviewers will look over their work and offer guidance. Papers and other content can remain anonymous if the student wishes, but reviewers will have the option of identifying themselves to the author of the content.

Purdue’s Writing Lab also offers various helpful tools to students, including a spelling and grammar checker, a plagiarism and duplicate content detector, and more.

Introduction to Sources

Purdue’s website defines a source as follows:

“A source is something that you can go to to learn more about; something that provides information. To analyze information and understand the sources’ perspective, you need to examine how each source functions and what makes it special. For example, an encyclopedia is a type of source that provides general information for research; a news source focuses on recent events and often brings in material from a variety of other sources to supplement its coverage; and an academic journal is a type of source that typically has a narrow focus on a specific subject but can still be valuable for an advanced research project. Every source has a specific perspective that you should consider when you use it to conduct your research.”

When to Check the Quality of a Source

You should always aim to ensure that you are using high-quality sources when conducting research. However, you should not be so concerned with whether or not the source is high-quality that you fail to notice if it is presenting inaccurate information or if it is simply not what you are looking for. For example, if you are seeking information on how to start a business but the only available resources are from well-known business journals, then it might be a good idea to consult a different source. In this case, you would not want to use the business journals as your source, since they may contain outdated information or be of lower quality compared to other available options.

How to Check the Quality of a Source

There are several things you can do to check the quality of a source before you use it in your research. First, look at the publisher’s name and the platform on which the journal is published. A reliable source will usually have a reputable publisher and be published on a platform that is considered trustworthy, such as Wikipedia or Scholarly Commons. Also, check the indexing of the journal in professional databases, such as Scopus or PubMed. If it is not indexed, this usually means it is not available for free and must be purchased from the publisher. Finally, read the reviews of the journal itself. This should give you a good idea of how reliable the source is and whether or not you should use it for your research.

Quality Versus Quantity

You cannot always assume that just because a source is available it is of high quality. In fact, this is often not the case. Sometimes, just because a lot of information is available on a topic it does not mean that the information is of good quality. For example, the Encyclopedia Britannica is an authoritative source that is considered highly reliable. However, many people consider it to be of poor quality due to its sheer size. Therefore, you must consider both the quality and quantity of the information when choosing your sources.

Using Multiple Sources

In some cases, you will find that even trusted sources contain incomplete or inaccurate information. This is why it is important to use multiple sources when conducting research, rather than relying on one source alone. By using several high-quality sources, you can ensure that you have covered all the relevant bases in your research and that you have not overlooked any important details. For example, if you are seeking information on the top 25 fashion trends for summer 2022, you can use several trusted resources, such as the Wikipedia encyclopedia entry or any of the major fashion magazines, to learn more about the topic.


At the end of your paper, you should include an alphabetical reference list of the sources you have used in the body of your paper. This list should include the title of the source, the edition (if any), the publisher, and the website if the source is online. Additionally, you should include the date on which you accessed the source.

This list should not be a literal bibliography; instead, it should be an indication of the various resources you have used to research the topic, including the various websites you have visited, the books you have read, and whatever else may be relevant. At the end of your paper, you should have an outline containing the names of the people you have interviewed as well as the titles and publication dates of the various books and articles you have referenced. This outline should be a helpful tool for both you and the person reading your paper.