Students who are still early in their academic career may not realize the importance of finding credible sources or know the different types of sources teachers may ask for. This short guide will get you started. Check out some of the homework help eResources on the Dog-Eared Blog's homework help resource series.
So how do you know if a particular resource is credible, anyway? There are a few questions you can ask yourself as you evaluate resources to determine credibility. Remember, it is worth it to go through this process to maintain the integrity of the information in your paper.
1. Where was the source published?
Was the material you are using published in a peer-reviewed scholarly journal or Joe Smith’s blog? A peer-reviewed article is written by an expert in the field and reviewed by other experts before added to a peer-reviewed journal – this makes for highly credible material. While Joe may have a scintillating blog and seems to know a lot about your topic of study, it is difficult to say if he is an expert or not. This does not mean that you can’t use this source (depending on your teacher’s expectations), it simply means that you may want to look elsewhere first.
2. Who wrote it?
Library resources typically provide the author’s bio. This gives the reader the opportunity to discern for themselves if they feel the author is a credible source of information on the topic. If you are researching 18th century art, for example, you may want to know if you are reading information from a Ph.D. professor at the University of Oklahoma who specializes in 18th Century Art.
3. Is the piece timely and appropriate for its field?
It is oftentimes best to search for the most up-to-date research in the field. You may not want to include in a medical research paper on current ways to treat cancer how they treated it 50 years ago. So, consider the field you are discussing and discern the quality of older research as it applies to your topic.
4. For whom is the source written?
Was the source created for scholars? Is there a bibliography with the article that you can use to consult their sources?
5. Will you use the source as a primary or secondary text?
Learn more about primary and secondary sources below.
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
A primary source is direct or firsthand evidence about the topic you are writing about. This includes things like photos, legal documents, firsthand recorded accounts, diaries, art, videos, interviews etc. If you are writing about the Dust Bowl you may use a transcript of a firsthand account of what it was like living in the dust bowl from someone who lived it or photos of the barren fields, etc.
A secondary source is essentially what your paper will be when it is complete – you have taken the data from both primary sources and other secondary sources and synthesized the ideas to present and support your own idea. Secondary sources evaluate primary sources or someone else’s original research.
Evaluating the Credibility of Your Sources. Retrieved August, 2018, from https://www.college.columbia.edu/academics/integrity-sourcecredibility
Primary and Secondary Sources. Retrieved August, 2018, from https://library.ithaca.edu/sp/subjects/primary