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Student Research Help - Sources

I need to know if a source is credible.

A good strategy to use to determine if a source is credible is to ask yourself the five "W" questions about it. Your answers to the questions will help you create an evaluation of the source, which will help you decide if it is credible. The table lists below the five types of questions you should ask and answers that are good indications that the source is credible.

Remember that just because a source is credible does not mean it is appropriate for your assignment. An article from The New York Times may be credible, but inappropriate for an assignment that requires you to use scholarly sources (click here for more on scholarly sources). Make sure you are using sources that are both credible and appropriate for your assignment.

WHO

  • Who is the author?
  • What degrees or job title does the author have?
  • Based on the author's degrees and/or job title, is the author qualified to write about the topic?

WHO   

Important because:

  • You need to make sure the author is qualified to write about the topic.                                                

Good signs:

  • author has an advanced degree (master's or doctorate) in the subject
  • author works at a respected university or research center     

WHAT

  • Does the source have a stated purpose? Can you infer what its purpose is?
  • What kind of language/tone does the source use?
  • Does the source’s purpose make the source appropriate for this assignment?

WHAT

Important because:

  • Sources created to advertise or entertain may not be accurate.

Good signs:

  • purpose is to solve a problem, answer a question, and/or inform
  • neutral language

WHEN

  • When was the source published?
  • Is this date recent enough that the source is likely still accurate and relevant?

WHEN

Important because:

  • Old sources may no longer be accurate or relevant.

Good sign:

  • the date is recent enough for the topic

WHERE

  • For small publications such as articles, where (in what larger publication) was the source published?
  • Who published the source?
  • Does the source have references?
  • Based on the publisher and presence/lack of references, is the source likely to be of high quality, accurate, and trustworthy?

WHERE

Important because:

  • The type of publisher can indicate the quality of the source.
  • References can indicate that the source is accurate and reliable.

Good signs:

  • publisher is a university press or professional organization
  • references are present

WHY

  • Why should I use this source in my paper?

 

WHY

Important because:

  • Just because a source is “good” does not mean you must (or should) use it in your assignment.

Good signs:

  • the source offers something new, different, and valuable to your paper
    • a good example of a point
    • an alternate perspective
    • good evidence for your analysis                                                  

Based on Kathy Schrock’s 5 Ws of Website Evaluation

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