Evaluating Quality, Credibility, and Validity of Sources
Finding relevant, quality, and accurate information and sources on the Internet can be tricky. It is often tempting to use the first source that you find, but that may not always provide the best information.
Once you have identified a source and the information that appears to be worthwhile, you should ask the following questions to make sure that it is credible, valid, and of quality
- How believable (credible) is the author/ organization/ website of the content? What are the authors / organizations / website credentials? Are they an expert in the field of the content?
- The educational background and/ or areas of expertise should show expertise in the field of the content.
- If the content is a website, what is the website domain extension?
- No particular domain extension is necessarily more credible than the other, however, consider the following:
- The .com, .org, and .net domains extensions can be used by anyone
- The .edu domain extension can only be used by educational institutions
- The .gov domain extension can only be used by governmental institutions
- Is the source content fact, opinion, or propaganda (biased to sway your opinion)?
- If you think the source is offering facts, the sources for those facts should be clearly shown.
- If the source is opinion, the author should offer sound reasons for adopting a particular point of view and/or acknowledge opposing views.
- Is the language objective (not influenced by personal feeling or opinions) or emotional?
- Objective language is generally more fact based. Emotional language may be based more on opinion than on fact.
- Is the information comprehensive enough for your needs?
- There should be enough fact-based evidence to back up opinion-based sources.
- How timely is the source? Is the source from ten years ago?
- A majority of your sources (depending on the topic area) should have be within the last three to five years, but older sources of information can often still be valid and credible.
- Does the source include an extensive list of references?
- If it does, this generally means the source has been well researched.
- Is fact-based information consistent from site to site?
- The fact-based information should be consistent across multiple sources.
Source: Purdue Online Writing Lab.