Finding accurate and reliable research sources is an important aspect of academic writing. Thanks to the accessibility of information on the internet, finding sources and references has become easier for students and researchers. However, it is becoming more challenging to evaluate sources’ credibility to determine if the information provided in the sources can be cited.
What Is a Reliable Source?
A source is reliable or credible when it provides a thorough, well-reasoned theory and arguments based on strong evidence.
Practically anyone can create a website, and put information on the internet, how then do you identify the reliable sources? A source is said to be credible and reliable when it is trustworthy. How do you then determine if a source is trustworthy since anyone can voice an opinion or present false information as fact without any credentials or proof?
Sources can appear reliable even when there are not. Hence here are some few things to consider when evaluating the credibility of a source. (Can you cite Wikipedia?)
Before citing a source, always check its background. Consider the credentials of the author as well as their affiliations. Also, you will need to determine if the source or author can be biased on the subject based on their affiliations.
Presenting something as fact does not mean it is actually facts. Therefore, to ensure that you are citing a reliable source, you have to cultivate the habit of questioning everything, such as books, articles, and websites, as they can all contain false data.
The information in a source always comes from somewhere unless the author is analyzing their own data. Therefore, you always have to review the sources listed and make sure they stand up to scrutiny. More importantly, you should beware of a source if its author does not include a list of sources.
Information is very fickle; it tends to go out of date very quickly. Therefore, you have to make sure your source is up to date, relevant, and applicable.
Reputable publishers usually thoroughly check the facts in the information they are distributing to ensure that they are reliable. Therefore, to know if a source is reliable, you have to check the publisher’s reputation. Chances are if a source does not come from a reputable publisher, it is not reliable.
The credibility of a source can also be judge by the target audience of the source. If the target audience is scholars, there is a good chance that the source is reliable.
Any source that is filled with several forms of error has a low chance of being reliable. Reliable sources are usually free from any forms of error, as it would have gone through several reviews.
How to Search for Reliable Sources?
Reliable sources can be found in print and online in the following ways.
To start searching for reliable sources, the best way is to start simple. How do you start simple? By browsing through common search engines using specific keywords to see what you find.
Although Wikipedia is a massive pool of information, it should be avoided when it comes to academic writing. This is because it allows the public to edit information available, which allows it to run the risk of being biased and lacking accuracy.
Make Use of Scholarly Database
For reliable sources, scholarly databases are your best friends. This is because scholarly databases can be trusted and are known to provide useful information. Trusted scholarly databases include Academic One File (Gale), Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, ProQuest, PsychInfo, PubMed, ScienceDirect, and many more.
The library is the most obvious place to search for reliable information, but it is often forgotten when it comes to research in the modern age. The information in the library is often vetted before being added to the collection. Therefore, you can be sure the sources in the library are reliable.