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Visual Resources

Using a video or image in your research? This guide will assist you in searching for and evaluating visual resources.

Getting Started

The internet is saturated with visual content.  It is so easy to create, alter, & share such content that it is difficult to critically evaluate if an image or video is a worthy source to use in your scholarly research. 

Drake in concert wearing Hotline Bling sweater 2011


Just like with text resources, ask these questions when evaluating a video or image:

  • Establish provenance
    • WHERE did this originate?  
    • WHEN was it first created and uploaded?
    • WHO created it?
  • Establish validity
    • Does this photo accurately depict the event, person, or place that it represents?
  • Establish authority
    • Is the creator an expert or scholar in the field?
    • Who holds the creator or source accountable for the accuracy and validity of content?
      • user-generated collection (e.g. YouTube): low accountability
      • wiki-sites (user-generated with volunteer editors): mid-level accountability
      • journalism, literary publisher, or academic source: high accountability
  • Cite your sources
    • Is the metadata (information about video/image) sufficient to create a citation?  If not, question the sources' authority 

This Guide demonstrates strategies for searching and evaluating videos & images.

What about copyright?

This guide will largely recommend videos and images:

  1. in the public domain
  • "free for use by anyone for any purpose without restriction under copyright law" (
  1. that hold a creative commons license
  • "Creative Commons is a global nonprofit organization that enables sharing and reuse of creativity of knowledge through the provision of free legal tools" (

  However, copyright law DOES allow copyrighted material to be used in educational settings and in instances of "fair use".  

  • Creating a work product for a class?  You're covered.  
  • Writing your senior paper or putting together something to publish?  Be much more careful with the potential licenses or laws that surround images or videos you want to use.

See Luther College's copyright site for more information including an up-to-date FAQ page.

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Ryan Gjerde
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