Answered By: Kate Anderson, Business Librarian
Last Updated: Mar 09, 2018     Views: 35778

There are many criteria that can be used to determine whether or not information from a source is credible. Some of the most important criteria are listed below. You can also learn a lot about the site by "reading" its web address or url.

    1. Authority
      1. Does the author or agency that created the information have the credentials, academic background, or experience to write authoritatively about the topic?
        1. Authors:
          1. Google their name...do they have a degree related to the topic they are addressing?
          2. Watch out for people with degrees (MA, MS, PhD) in a field unrelated to what they are writing about. A PhD in English does not qualify someone to give medical advice, for instance.
        2. Agencies:
          1. Google their name...do they have a good reputation in the field they are addressing?
          2. Are they really taking responsibility for a particular website? Sometimes university web pages are "official" and sometimes they belong solely to students or staff or faculty. To learn how to tell the difference, visit our "How can I "read" a URL or website address?" answer.
    2. Bias
      1. Is there a reason to believe that the information provided by the author/agency is slanted or designed to persuade the reader? Maybe it only presents part of the whole story?
        1. It is acceptable to use biased information as long as you understand it is biased and you acknowledge that in your paper.
        2. If you do use a biased source, it is a good idea to find opposing biased information.
        3. To find sources on different sides of an issue (pro and con, opposing viewpoints, compare-contrast), see our Comparison Contrast LibAnswer.
      2. Be aware of your own biases as you consume and use information. 
        1. Do your personal opinions change the way you interpret information?
        2. Are you open to points of view that are different than your own?
        3. Do you choose only sources of information that reflect your personal point of view?
    3. Currency
      1. How new or old is the information on the web page? Is there a last-updated date?
      2. Does the date matter?
        1. Information in some areas and disciplines changes all the time and/or needs to be up-to-date.
        2. Would you want information about cancer treatments from 1980? No!
        3. Would you want information about Shakespeare from 1980? Well, that doesn't matter so much.
    4. Care Taken / Indicators of Quality
      1. Are claims made by the website backed up with documented and cited sources?
        1. Can you get to the sources if they are online?
        2. Are the sources of high quality?
        3. Are the sources balanced or biased?
        4. Do the sources really cover what they are supposed to?
      2. Spelling. Grammar. Mechanics.

See also: What is a good way to find information about the authority or qualifications of an author?

See also: Where would I look to find publisher information for a book? 

 

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