By: Endia Hunt
How well do you examine the credibility of a source? Before giving much thought to this question, I’d like you to imagine the following scenarios:
High school senior, Johnny Doe, submits a research paper detailing the Holocaust. Johnny meets the minimum word requirement, properly cites each source, and expects to earn a high grade. A week later, Johnny’s teacher returns his paper with a large “F” written in red at the top. Johnny becomes angry and confused when learning that his hard work didn’t earn him a passing grade. He decides to meet with his teacher who then explains that his paper contains inaccurate information. Apparently, Johnny retrieved a portion of his information from satirical and fake news websites.
Emma Doe, a sophomore in college, gives a presentation on the causes and effects of HIV/AIDS. Her professor questions the credibility of her sources because a lot of the information seems inaccurate. In response, Emma asserts that all of the information was retrieved from qualified health professionals. However, after reviewing her list of sources, Emma’s professor realizes that she cited a number of outdated books.
Based on the scenarios, what do you think Emma and Johnny should have done differently?
The obvious answer is this:
Johnny should have checked the domain, design, and writing styles of each site, and
Emma should have chosen more recently published books.
Once again, I ask, how well do you examine the credibility of a source?
Do you only look for the author’s credentials? Or do you also pay close attention to their writing style?
When evaluating a source, you should ask yourself these five questions:
You shouldn’t choose an article from the 1980s to explain how HIV is transmitted in 2017. Always make sure your sources were published recently to get the most accurate information.
If you’re writing a research paper on how to treat gout flare-ups, you should cite experienced health professionals. An author’s occupation and/or highest level of education can usually determine whether or not they are reliable.
If an author’s writing is unclear or contains spelling and grammatical errors, then they are probably not reliable. A reliable source is always concerned about the quality of their work.
A credible author or website will list sources that support the information they
present. Pay attention to how each source is used throughout the text and how well they are organized at the end.
When confronting this question, you should also answer the following:
*If your answer is “yes” to some of the questions above, then your source is most likely biased.
Take the quiz.
Answer Key: 1.) F 2.) F 3.) F 4.) F 5.) F
The information we access online is not always accurate. Before believing what you read, make sure the authors are trustworthy.