MTM Writing Clinic
Credibility of Sources
When providing evidence in your paper, it will come from sources. Determining whether these sources are credible is vital to ensure that your evidence is 1) accurate and 2) taken seriously. Be sure to evaluate all sources that you plan to incorporate (and cite) in your final paper.
Having an author for a source is infinitely better than having none. And having a reputable, respected scholar in the field you are writing about is even better. If you are unsure about the credibility of a specific author do a standard internet search to see if they are affiliated with a university or institution. Still not sure? Citation databases allow you to see how many times the particular source you are questionable about has been utilized by other scholars.
Where did you find your source? In a peer-reviewed scholoary journal? Even though you may be on the university library database system does not mean that all databases are created equal.
If you've chosen to pursue your research interests on-line rather than the library, you'll want to be even more vigilant. Some peer-reviewed journals do exist, but they are more difficult to find. In addition, some websites look credible, but fail to meet the rigors of a peer-review system. If you're unsure about an on-line source, discuss it with your professor before you choose to include it.
Time matters, especially depending on the field for which you are writing. Some fields allow for sources to be considered relevant regardless of age, so long as the information is on topic and relevant to your claims. Other fields require research to be "fresh," and no older than a set time period. Before deciding to use an older, and potentially outdated source, see if your source has been cited in newer, and possibly more relevant research.
Included in any research paper (including yours!) a bibliography, works cited, or footnotes should appear. If you're still undecided on the credibility of the source you've selected, check out the author's sources of information. If they have done a good job researching, then in all likelihood, they will be a good source for you.