How do I know if a source is credible?
You can ask the following questions to determine if a source is credible:
Who is the author? Credible sources are written by authors respected their fields of
study. Responsible, credible authors will cite their sources so that you can check the
accuracy of and support for what they've written. (This is also a good way to find more
sources for your own research.)
How recent is the source? The choice to seek recent sources depends on your topic.
While sources on the American Civil War may be decades old and still contain accurate
information, sources on information technologies, or other areas that are experiencing
rapid changes, need to be much more current.
What is the author's purpose? When deciding which sources to use, you should take
the purpose or point of view of the author into consideration. Is the author presenting a
neutral, objective view of a topic? Or is the author advocating one specific view of a
topic? Who is funding the research or writing of this source? A source written from a
particular point of view may be credible; however, you need to be careful that your
sources don't limit your coverage of a topic to one side of a debate.
What type of sources does your audience value? If you are writing for a professional
or academic audience, they may value peer-reviewed journals as the most credible
sources of information. If you are writing for a group of residents in your hometown, they
might be more comfortable with mainstream sources, such as Time or Newsweek. A
younger audience may be more accepting of information found on the Internet than an
older audience might be.
Be especially careful when evaluating Internet sources! Never use Web sites where
an author cannot be determined, unless the site is associated with a reputable
institution such as a respected university, a credible media outlet, government program
or department, or well-known non-governmental organizations. Beware of using sites
like Wikipedia, which are collaboratively developed by users. Because anyone can add
or change content, the validity of information on such sites may not meet the standards
for academic research.
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