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The internet has allowed us to access a huge range of material, which complicates the process of determining what information is credible. Many internet platforms are user-driven, which contrasts with traditional print media that often features editors, fact checkers, and reviewers. It is now the responsibility of individuals to ensure the information they are using is credible. A quick method for determining the credibility of an piece of information is to consider 1) currency, 2) authority, and 3) accuracy.
- Currency refers to when a piece of information was published. An article about personal computing technology that was written in 1997 would not be credible when discussing current technology issues. An article about human rights from 1920, however, may still be applicable to modern contexts.
- Authority involves an individual's credibility to write or produce content about a subject. An author that critiques a set of statistics without a background in mathematics may not be credible. Use search engines to research source authors if needed.
- Accuracy means correctness. If an author relies solely on assertions or incorrect data to make a claim, then the source is not accurate.
These criteria can help you evaluate any source. Even something like a Youtube video will have these three dimensions.
Examples of Credible Sources
- A peer-reviewed, scholarly journal article written by an established researcher
- A book written by an expert with experience in the subject
- A blog post by a person with industry experience
- A Youtube video of a lecture or academic conference
- A governmental report, like the Census
Examples of Unreliable Sources
- Some Wikipedia articles (if the article is poorly sourced, overly short, or filled with bias)
- Political opinion pieces (the authors of these are often non experts in a given field, but are rather commentators)
- Random Youtube videos (if you cannot verify a person's authority, then move on to better sources)
- Many news articles shared to social media (if you cannot find information on the author or publication using a search engine, move on)
- Non-scholarly books (if the book is not well-sourced, then move on to another source)