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ABC's of Determining Credible Sources: Finding Credible Sources

This guide was created to help students find credible sources

ABC's of Determining Credibility

Credibility is defined as "the quality or power of inspiring belief". Credible sources, therefore, must be reliable sources that provide information that one can believe to be true.

It is important to use credible sources in an academic research paper because your audience will expect you to have backed up your assertions with credible evidence. Think of it this way: if you went to the doctor to get advice on a symptom you were having, and your doctor told you his diagnosis was based on something he heard a random stranger say on his way to work, would you be inclined to trust what he told you your symptom meant? Probably not. But, if your doctor told you his diagnosis came from an article he read in the peer-reviewed, highly prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, you would be more likely to believe his diagnosis was correct. Why? The reason is that you may have heard of the journal your doctor referred to, or you may know that the AMA is a highly respected organization in the field of medicine, ergo, they know that their information is credible and reliable. The same situation holds true if you are writing a research paper. Your audience is going to expect you to use the best, most correct, most recent, and most reliable information possible so that they can trust in your expertise. Using evidence that does not come from a credible source of information will not convince your reader that your claim is plausible or even correct.

https://sites.google.com/site/evaluatingsourcecredibility/for-students/what-does-credibility-mean

      Authority

  • ​​Is an author’s name clearly visible?
  • Are the author’s credentials (qualifications, education, and occupation) given? Can they be verified? 
  • Is there an “About Us” page that describes the sponsoring company or organization?
  • Is there a phone number or postal address to contact for more information?
  • Is the sponsor’s domain well-known and reputable?
  • Do any reputable sites link to the web page? If so, what do they have to say about it?

      Verifying Authority

To find out more about the author, search for author’s name in a web search engine using   “ “ around the name. For example: “John Doe”.

Use a WHOIS search to find out who registered the domain name of the URL.

To find other sites that link to the web page, perform a Google search with link: followed by the URL of the page. For example: link: www.uscupstate.edu.

      Accuracy

  • Is the information spelled correctly, grammatically correct, without proofreading errors? 
  • Are there links to sources of factual information?
  • Is there a bibliography or citation to show where the data comes from?
  • Can the information be verified elsewhere?

      Bias

  •  Are any biases clearly stated? or do you know the authors to be biased?
  •  What is the purpose of the page? To inform? To market a product? To persuade? To entertain?
    •   .com – Commercial
    •   .edu – Educational
    •    .gov – Government
    •    .mil – Military
    •    .net – Network
    •    .org – Non-Profit
  • If there are advertisements, are they clearly differentiated from informational content?

      Currency
  • Are there dates that indicate when the page was first created and last updated?
  • Are there any other indications that the material is current?
  • The Internet Archive Wayback Machine can be used to access previous versions of a web page.

      Coverage

  • Is the page a complete document, or is it just a summary or draft?
  • Does the page cover the topic adequately, or is important information left out?
  • Is the author’s point of view clearly presented with well supported arguments?
  • Are there good links to more information on the topic?
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