How do I know if the information I found is credible?
Last Updated: Mar 30, 2021     Views: 2001

Databases within the University Library are considered to contain credible sources. Articles from journals and publications – even those that are not peer-reviewed – are considered reliable resources, unless they are editorials and the sole opinion of the author. Encyclopedias also provide reliable information because they state a commonly accepted fact or facts.

Articles that are published in scholarly or peer-reviewed sources are considered credible. To see if a journal is scholarly or peer-reviewed, search for it in Ulrichsweb. This is the authoritative source of bibliographic and publisher information on all types of academic and scholarly journals. If there is a referee shirt icon in the left column next to the journal in your search results, that means it is peer-reviewed. It will also state if the journal is scholarly (academic), but not peer-reviewed.

Sources Found Outside the Library

Always consider the credibility of outside sources when citing information. Websites such as Wikipedia are not considered reliable because they contain information that can be changed by individuals who wish to present additional information. This information may also be biased.

Government databases can usually be considered reliable, but free web resources should be evaluated for validity and authority. Some free web resources may not be viewed as acceptable, so consult your instructor regarding the appropriateness of content.

Author Credibility

Author credibility often depends upon the source.

Books

  • Check the forward, introduction, or an “About the Author” section to get background information or expertise about an author.
  • Check to see if there have been any reviews published about the book.

Newspapers

  • The author may be listed as a staff writer. If this is the case, then it depends on the reputation of the paper. Some things to consider when determining if a newspaper is reputable: where does its funding come from (i.e. who is the parent organization that owns it), is there bias evident, does it publish accurate content (i.e. fact checking) and if an error is made does it correct it, and does the headline accurately represent the article content.

Journals

  • Check if the author has included any credentials.
  • Scholarly articles may provide a short biography about the author and place of employment, located either on the first or last page of the article.
  • In articles published in peer reviewed/scholarly journals, the author's expertise in the subject is assumed since the article has been reviewed by colleagues in the field and found worthy of publishing.
  • Check to see if the author has published other articles. Search Google Scholar to see if the author's work has been cited in other articles, and how many times. A high "cited by" number increases the likelihood that the author is credible.

Websites

Websites are more complicated. Even if there is an author named on a website it can still be difficult to evaluate the author’s credibility. Consider these questions:

  • Is the author trying to sell a product?
  • Does the website domain end in .com? Websites with .edu or .gov are considered more reliable and credible.
  • How often is the website updated and, if you have an author name, can you find additional that they have published. Check to see who owns the page, generally found on an "About" page. Is it a reputable company? Do you know if it is a reputable company?

There are times when you won't be able to find anything. That is when you begin to look very closely to see if the article or content would even meet the criteria for the class.

Need More?

View the How do I choose my sources? video on our Evaluate Sources guide.


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