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Evaluating Website Credibility

Overview

You will learn how to assess the credibility of sources.

Credible Sources

When you read, you should make sure that what you are reading comes from a credible source. Credible sources are trustworthy, meaning you know that what you are reading is true.

Why Should You Use Credible Sources?

No matter what kind of information you’re looking for, you should always look for credible sources. You want to make sure that you are getting the most accurate and reputable information available.

In other words, you need to make sure that what you are reading is factual and correct!

Is It Credible?

To figure out if a source is credible, you can ask a few simple questions about the text and where it came from. If you have trouble finding the answers to these questions, it may be a sign that your source isn’t credible. You can ask:

  • Who is the author of the source?
  • Where was the source published?
  • What information does the source include and what does it look like?
  • When was the source published or updated?
  • Why did the author create the source?

Who is the author?

“Who is the author of the source?” is one of the most important questions to ask when assessing credibility.

When looking at the author of the source, you should make sure it is someone who is an expert in the topic.

You can check this by looking to see if the author:

  • is respected in the field
  • has degrees related to the topic
  • has published other books/articles on the topic

You may need to do some research outside of the source in order to find this information.

Where Was It Published?

The publisher is also important to keep in mind when you assess credibility. Some publishers have better reputations than others, because they have strict standards for what they put out.

When looking at the publisher, you should check that it is:

  • A well-respected organization (University presses are often credible)
  • Selective with what they publish

Some publishers, like Wikipedia, will let anyone share information. You need to be more careful with these sources.

What Information Does the Source Include?

As a critical reader, you need to evaluate the actual information in the source. If the source doesn’t make sense, doesn’t include enough information, has spelling errors, or doesn’t seem correct, this is probably not a credible source of information.

When Was the Source Created?

When assessing credibility, you want to make sure that your sources are up-to-date. Research changes constantly, and we’re always learning new things about the world.

Make sure that the sources you use were created or updated recently, so you can be sure the information is accurate.

Why Was the Source Created?

Understanding the author’s purpose tells you a lot about a source’s credibility.

If the source was written to persuade or convince readers of something, you need to be careful! These sources may be biased, or leave out important information. If you think this is the case, you’ll need to double check with more sources to make sure the information is accurate.

Evaluating Source Credibility Example

We often research to find information about making healthy choices. But, how do we know that the information we’re reading is coming from experts?

One topic that people are concerned about are GMOs, or genetically modified foods. We’re not really sure what effects these foods have on us. Let’s check out the website, FactsAboutGMOs.org to see if it is a credible source of information.

As you skim the website, ask yourself the following questions to see if the source is credible:

  • Who is the author of the source?
  • Where was the source published?
  • What information does the source include and what does the source look like?
  • When was the source published or updated?
  • Why did the author create the source?

Who Are The Author and Publisher?

There is no specific author mentioned on this website. That could be okay if it comes from a reputable publisher, though.

If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page, you’ll see the line, “A Project of The Grocery Manufacturers Association.”

Some quick research tells me that this is an association that supports big food companies – companies that sell foods with genetically modified ingredients. This is a BIG ALERT. The information on this site may be influenced by these companies.

What Information Does the Source Include?

There are a lot of links to studies and other sources on this website. This is a good sign.

However, when you look at the type of information and the kinds of studies, you can only find information about how GMOs are safe and good for the world. This website clearly only represents one point of view.

When Was This Source Created?

There is no date on this website, so it is hard to tell how recently it was created. However, if you click the links, you can see that the most current information is from a few years ago. So this website is not current. Although the information is not entirely out-of-date since it was within in the last 5 years, there is probably more recent information available elsewhere.

Why Was the Source Created?

At first glance, this source looks like it was created to present people with facts about GMOs. However, remember that:

  1. The people behind it want us to buy GMO foods
  2. Only one point of view is represented

These facts lead you to believe that this website was created to persuade. We’ll have to be careful and double check the information with less biased sources!

Is it Credible?

You’ll have to be careful if you use information from this website to form your final opinion.

There are some credible studies linked and a lot of recent information, but the publisher, purpose, and one-sided information are big red flags.

Conclusion

You learned:

  • How to ask questions about a source in order to determine credibility