Which Sources Should We Trust?

The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb and Joseph M. Williams includes a discussion of evaluating sources for their relevance and reliability, an issue in the front of the minds of new research explorers everywhere. I found these point particularly helpful and user-friendly, along with the admission that “these indicators do not guarantee reliability . . . So, don’t assume that you can read uncritically just because a report is written by a reputable researcher and published by a reputable press.”

Excerpts taken from section 5.4.2 “Evaluating Sources for Reliability”

You can’t judge a source until you read it, but there are signs of its reliability:

1. Is the source published or posted online by a reputable press?

2. Was the book or article peer-reviewed?

3. Is the author a reputable scholar?

4. If the source is available only online, is it sponsored by a reputable organization?

5. Is the source current?

6. If the source is a book, does it have a notes and a bibliography?

7. If the source is a Web site, does it include bibliographical data?

8. If the source is a Web site, does it approach its topic judiciously?

9. If the source is a book, has it been well reviewed?

10. Has the source been frequently sited by others?


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