When writing an academic paper, you are required to get your facts from credible sources. Multiple sources exist, including on the internet, but not all of them should be used for a research paper. This blogpost will explore credible sources, how to find, and analyze them.
Definition: Credible sources
A credible source is one that is unbiased, objective, and backed with evidence. It also refers to a source that has been fact-checked or written by a trustworthy organization or professional author.1
Using credible sources in academic writing ensures that you make accurate arguments that are backed up with accurate facts. It also helps you draw accurate conclusions from your data. Therefore, evaluating source credibility is a vital data literacy skill.
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Where to find credible sources
Where you find your credible sources depends on the type of research you are conducting.2 For instance, the following are credible sources for preliminary research:
- News sources containing first-hand reporting
- Websites featuring .edu or.org domains
- Approved textbooks
- Research-based magazines like Nature Weekly
In contrast, if you want to dig deeper into your academic research, sources like academic journals and books would come in handy.
Academic database like Google Scholar and Government Open Data also make credible sources. Finally, you can find credible sources in open educational resources for free use in academic settings.
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Types of credible sources
There are three key types of sources you can use in scholarly writing: primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. Primary sources provide direct evidence of a topic. Therefore, they are the most credible sources.3 However, there are also credible secondary and tertiary sources. Each category of sources contains types of credible sources. The table below provides a clear summary of the types of credible sources:
|Type of source||Explanation||Example of credible sources|
|Primary sources||Sources that provide first-hand evidence and give direct access to a research topic||• Statistical results
• Newspapers and magazine
• Journal or diary entries
• Audio clips from interviews/speeches
|Secondary sources||Sources containing second-hand information that analyzes, evaluates, or describes primary sources||• Documentaries
• Journal articles
|Tertiary sources||Tertiary sources do not offer original insights or analyses like primary or secondary sources||• Bibliographies and indexes
• Encyclopaedias and dictionaries
• Guidebooks, manuals, almanacs, and directories
Fast-checking credible sources
One of the best ways to identify credible sources is fact-checking4. There are key things you must consider when fact-checking credible sources. Below are indicators of a credible source:
- Its content should be up-to-date.
- The source should be applicable to your study.
- The source should be published or written by a trusted authority on your study subject.
- The source should cite its author.
- Its content should be precise and unbiased.
- For online sources, their URL and layout should denote trustworthiness.
You can also use the CRAAP test to evaluate if a source is credible5. The CRAAP text features the following components:
- Currency: Is the source current?
- Relevance: Is it relevant to your study?
- Authority: Is the author or publisher an authority on the subject?
- Accuracy: Are there citations on the source/ is it backed by evidence?
- Purpose: What is the publishing cite’s purpose?
It is worth mentioning that the criteria for fact-checking credible sources may differ depending on the research topic. For instance, your source dos not have to be current if your study focuses on a historical topic like the world war.2
- The credibility of a book is usually determined by its author. You can consider a book to be reliable if it is written by a professional author with authority and know-how on the subject matter. Books are also considered credible sources if their content is reviewed.5
- Scholarly books usually go through peer reviews by a panel in the same subject area. The reviewers determine if the book is accepted for publication based on specific criteria.4
- Books are also considered credible if they contain citations and evidence. The author should base his arguments on facts and evidence. You can also assess the evidence or if it is used logically to determine if the book is a credible source.3
Finding credible sources is typically challenging. However, finding credible online sources is even harder because they often have many authors and do not have a specific publication date. Therefore, determining their relevance and authority can be nearly impossible. Additionally, you may struggle to determine their purpose.
Furthermore, websites do not usually go through peer-review and editing processes like books and scholarly journals. So anyone can publish an article or blog at any time. However, you can still determine the credibility of a website by looking at its URL.1
The contents of the website will also say a lot about its reliability. For instance, credible website sources should:4
- Have a professional layout
- Contain an informative and comprehensive “About Us” page with all relevant information (including contacts)
- Contain links to other credible sources
- Contain verifiable content
- Be updated frequently
- Be non-biased
- Give insight into the publisher’s purpose or motivation
Sources that can be edited by anyone, like Wikipedia, are not credible website sources.
You can also tell if sources are not credible if:5
- It is authored by someone lacking proper credentials
- It is published on a commercial site
- It is not properly edited
Here are the best ways to avoid repetition and redundancy in your academic writing:
- Try out various transitional phrases.
- Change up your sentence length and structure.
- Avoid referring to many antecedents with the same pronoun.
The use of redundant language occurs when more words or phrases than required are used to describe the same idea.
Writing that is both simple and concise has no place for redundancy. The inability to write coherently and clearly will prevent you from producing useful technical reports.
Writers use repetition to create rhythm in their work. Repetition, like other aural acrobatics like rhyme, consonance, and assonance, makes a text more melodic.
1 Custom Writing. “List of Credible Sources for Research. Examples of Credible Websites.” Accessed March 6, 2023. https://custom-writing.org/blog/signs-of-credible-sources.
2 University of the People. “The Ultimate Student Guide to Finding Credible Sources.” Accessed March 6, 2023. https://www.uopeople.edu/blog/ultimate-student-guide-to-finding-credible-sources/.
3 University of Maryland Global Campus. “Is My Source Credible?” Accessed March 6, 2023. . https://libguides.umgc.edu/credibility.
4 USC. “What are credible sources?” Accessed March 6, 2023. https://libguides.usc.edu.au/credible.
5 Mallory-Kani, Amy. “What is a credible source?” September 27, 2022. https://www.bibguru.com/blog/credible-sources/.