(Alumni) How do I know if the information I found is credible?
Last Updated: Jul 20, 2020     Views: 17

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 Articles from journals and publications – even those that are not peer-reviewed – are considered reliable resources unless they are editorials and the sole opinion of the author.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 fact.

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. 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 It will also say if the journal is scholarly (academic) but not peer-reviewed.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 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 by your faculty member, so consult your instructor regarding the appropriateness of content.

Author Credibility

Author credibility often depends upon the source of the document.

Books

  • Check the forward, introduction, or an “About the Author” section to get background information about an author, or it may list his/her expertise.
  • Check to see if there have been any reviews published on 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.

Journals

  • Check if the author has included any credentials.
  • Scholarly articles may provide a short biography and where they work, 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 his/her 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 his/her credibility.

  • Is the author trying to sell a product?
  • Does the website domain end in .com? Websites with .edu or .gov may be more reliable and credible.
  • How often is the website updated and, if you have an author name, can you find additional articles published by them?
  • Check to see who owns the page, generally found on an "About" page. Is it 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 this item would even meet the criteria for the class.

Need More?

View the Evaluating Sources video (explaining how to evaluate your sources) on our How Do I Evaluate Sources page.


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