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Boatwright Memorial Library

FYS 100 (37): Medieval England & France in Conflict: Norman Conquest, Angevin Empire, & Hundred Years War (Routt)

This course guide supports Dr. Routt's FYS class, Medieval England & France in Conflict

Think Like a Journalist

The basic rules for evaluating a source for quality are the same as the "5 W's" of journalism:

Who, What, When, Where, and Why.


Who produced the doucment, image, video, sound file, etc. and what do you know about them, their credentials, and their motives?

What is the factual or emotional content of the source and does it reflect reality?

When was it produced and does that time frame alter its potential usefulnes?

Where was it published and does that publisher evaluate sources befor publishing them?  Does the place of publication reflect on the competence or impartiality of the source?  Is this a re-publication and, if so, where was it originally published?

Why was the item produced and published?  To educate?  To influence?  To sell something?  To promote the creator?

What is a Primary Source vs. a Secondary Source?

A primary source is a document or other sort of evidence written or created during the time under study, or by one of the persons or organizations directly involved in the event. Primary sources offer an inside view of a particular event. Some types are:

  • Original Documents: Diaries, speeches, letters, minutes, interviews, news film footage, autobiographies, official records
  • Creative Works: Poetry, drama, novels, music, art, films
  • Relics or Artifacts: Jewelry, pottery, furniture, clothing, buildings, tools

A secondary source of information is a work created by someone who did not experience first-hand or participate in the events or conditions you are researching.  For the purposes of historical research projects, secondary sources are generally written by an academic scholar using specific methodologies, arguments, and research to study a research question.  Historians use primary sources as evidence in their research to produce articles and books / monographs on historical topics.. Some types are:

  • Articles in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals - articles tend to focus on specific topics, time periods, or methods of research
  • Books and monographs - these larger research projects are more comprehensive, offering in-depth research into a particular topic, time period, or method of research.

Related Primary Source Guides on the Web

Critical Evaluation of All Sources

Website Evaluation

On the World Wide Web, scholarly researchers face the challenge of navigating and extracting useable information from over 100 million indexed sites and over 46 billion pages. Here are some signs of a good scholarly web resource:

Trusted URLs

.edu, .gov, .mil contain the most reliable and unbiased info


Look for the author's name, credentials and affiliation to give clues to the contents' quality and objectivity. You should expect the same information quality from a web page as you would from a scholarly print or database source. For pages authored by organizations, look for the site's "About Us" section.


When was the page created or last updated?


Sources used for the page should be cited and working links provided for more information on the topic.


Trustworthy sites should not have spelling, grammatical or factual errors.

Creative Commons License
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