There are no "good" sources or "bad" sources. When we evaluate sources for academic projects (research papers, speech presentations, posters, etc.) we are looking for sources of information that useful and appropriate to our purpose.
For example, if you are conducting research for a position paper or persuasive speech, an opinion article might be useful in constructing your argument. However, that same article would not be appropriate for a natural science poster presentation that requires scientific research studies.
When selecting information sources for your research, be sure to consider the requirements of your assignment and the context of your project. By examining the following criteria, you can better evaluate the usefulness and appropriateness of sources for your specific information needs.
Books, articles, videos, images, and websites are all designed with an audience (or multiple audiences) in mind. Some common audience types include: the general public, students (K-12, college), the trades and practitioners (hospitality, health & human services), academics, and the scientific community.
When evaluating the audience of a source, consider your own research assignment and your intended audience.
Why is this important? Authors often tailor a publication to the intended audience, which means you can learn a lot about the purpose and intent behind the publication.
Authors gain authority in various ways. For example, the author of a scholarly journal article may have subject expertise, while the author of a news article may have extensive experience as an investigative reporter. Authority may also be conferred through institutional affiliation - the school, business, department, or professional organization to which the author belongs. Here, the assumption is that reputable organizations and institutions employ reputable authors.
Authority is highly contextual. In other words, a well-renowned scholar of art history has authority when writing about ancient Egyptian sculpture, but likely lacks authority when speaking about a subject outside of their expertise, such as artificial intelligence or culinary arts.
Why is this important? Establishing credentials is one method for assessing credibility and accuracy of a publication.
Currency is particularly important in fields that are rapidly changing, like science, technology, or medicine. Depending on the topic, you may consider historic sources.