The definition of a credible source can change depending on the discipline, but in general, for academic writing, a credible source is one that is unbiased and is backed up with evidence. When writing a research paper, always use and cite credible sources. Use this checklist to determine if an article is credible or not:
- Is the source in-depth (more than a page or two), with an abstract, a reference list, and documented research or data?
- Who is the audience (researchers, professors, students, general population, professionals in a specific field)?
- What is the purpose of the source (provide information or report original research or experiments, to entertain or persuade the general public, or provide news or information specific to a trade or industry)?
- Who are the authors? Are they respected and well-known in the field? Are they easily identifiable? Have they written about other similar topics? What are their credentials?
- Is the source reputable? Is it published on a reputable, non-biased web site, or in a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal, and not from a newspaper, blog, or wiki?
- Is the source current for your topic?
- Is there supporting documentation (graphs, charts, illustrations or other supporting documentation)?
OERs (Open Educational Resources)
Open educational resources (OERs) are materials that are licensed for free use, with the purpose of teaching or learning. Use this checklist to find credible and useful OER's:
- Does the resource have a CC (Creative Commons) license where the resource can be reused or shared?
- Who is the author and what are his or her credentials? Have they written other content on this topic? Are they a professor or expert in the subject they are writing about?
- Is the content non-biased?
Web Domains in Scholarly Research
Where does your source come from?
- government or military (.gov or .mil) - Government or Military websites end in .gov or .edu, and in general are among the most reliable sources on the web. Beware of political sites used to sway public opinion.
- university (.edu) - University web sites end in .edu, and are usually reliable. Use these sites with caution, checking for credibility and authority.
- company website (.com) - Company web sites generally end in .com. These sites are great for information about a particular company. However be aware that company websites are used to promote, so be sure the information is non-biased.
- special interest (.org) - While many professional organizations end in
.org, there are also many .orgs that are biased and promote a specific
Evaluating Web Sites (5:16)