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SOCA: Sociology: Choosing Credible Sources

Evaluating Sources

With the amount of freely available information for us to use and the ease of distributing information today, how do you decide what information is best? How do you determine what you are reading is accurate, reliable, and trustworthy?

Thinking critically about the sources you are using for your research is essential. They need to be credible because you will be tying your own credibility and academic reputation to them. Their credibility and quality will affect the quality of your paper or presentation.

When working with a potential source, ask yourself if you know the source, it's reputation, and the reputation of the information itself. If you don't, you will need to look further into it with some additional searching. This might mean looking for the author and publisher's expertise, reputation, background, or their agenda. Or it might mean confirming the individual pieces of information in other sources and considering what the consensus is. 

If the source credits their sources, trace any claims or questionable information back to its original context. It's usually better to use the original source of the information, not the secondary source. This may lead you to more information and other sources you can use as well.

You'll also want to make sure that the information is current enough for your topic. Lastly, remember your purpose. Does the source really meet your needs and answer your questions about your topic? Does it give you the information you need?

The source should be the best source for your needs, not just a source or the first source you found. 

It can be especially difficult to determine and avoid bias. 

Determining Bias

Additional resources for evaluating information: