Evaluating Sources for Credibility
To determine if the source is credible, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Is the source recent enough?
New research always adds to the available knowledge base, so older sources may be not accurate. Use common sense and field knowledge to determine how recent the source should be. For example, if you are writing about a historical event or a literary piece, some older reviews will work fine. If you are writing about politics, sociology or medicine, even two- or three-year-old sources may be outdated already.
2. Is the source biased?
Scientific peer-reviewed articles should be 100% free from bias. Any wish to argue for a certain idea makes the study and its results questionable.
At the same time, being supportive of one idea and rejecting another is the basis of any argumentative writing. Arguing for their own position on the topic, authors would focus on the evidence supporting their view and use diverse rhetoric appeals to persuade readers that only their position is right (a form of bias). It doesn’t make their articles non-credible though.
In case of opinion articles and reviews, you need to reject the sources where the author’s bias is not due to personal convictions but due to censorship, an ideology of the state, or the need to sell a definite product or service. This is why it is important to consider bias along with the intention of the author as discussed further.
3. What is the intention of the author?
Choose the sources that were created with the intention to inform and enlighten the audience. The sources created with marketing, political, or entertaining motives, are not suitable for research.
4. Is there supporting evidence?
To avoid plagiarism and inaccuracy, the author should cite all the information, which is not common knowledge. For internet articles, the reference list is not common, but credible sources do refer to the original source by linking to it. If a source includes certain statistics or claims without referring readers to the sources where this information may be checked, it cannot be counted credible.
5. What is known about the author?
Peer-reviewed journals check the identity of the author, so this question relates to internet sources more. It is ok to use a source where a reputable organization acts as an author, for example, the World Health Organisation, American Psychological Organisation, governmental agencies, etc. Otherwise, a credible internet source will include the full name of the author and the author’s bio, as well as the date of publication.
If multiple authors can edit the text at their own discretion, the source cannot be considered credible. This is a sure argument against Wikipedia credibility.