Research Skills Tutorial

Read all five sections of this tutorial from "Credible Sources" through "Validity". This tutorial discusses appropriate questions to ask in order to determine whether a source is credible and reliable. As you read through the tutorial, make a list of important questions to ask. Leave plenty of space between each question. As you proceed, make notes under each question about why that question is important. Also, write down any tips to consider when attempting to answer each question.

Credible Sources

Evaluating information for research is just a specialized, advanced form of the same critical thinking skills you already use.

Why do we need to critically evaluate information sources?

    • No source of information is guaranteed to be trustworthy.  You always need to use your own educated judgment, even with scholarly articles from library databases.

    • Some sources of information are more trustworthy than others, but it can be hard to tell from appearances.

    • Evaluating information using critical thinking will save time and effort by filtering out materials you should not use.

    • Your critical thinking will show up in your writing and you will get better grades.

Your professors may tell you to find credible information sources. This is a subjective term with many definitions, but the general consensus is that credibility is a combination of reliability, authority, validity and accuracy.

  • Reliability means that the entities that sponsored, supported, or published the information source have a reputation for quality, and integrity.
      • The entity can be a journal, book publisher, movie studio, any kind of organization that puts information out on a web site, etc.

  • Authority means that the creator of the information source is an expert in the field.
      • The creator can be an author, multiple authors, or an organization, government agency, company, etc.

  • Validity means that the research in the information source was conducted in ways that are commonly accepted for that field of study. 
      • For example, anecdotes are not valid in the sciences. Raw numbers are not valid in the humanities.
      • There are some inclusions that are not valid in any scholarly field of study: logical fallacies, blatant emotional manipulation, deceit, etc.

  • Accuracy means that you have ways of determining the correctness of the information in the information source.
      • You can verify the information in one information source by checking it against other information sources.
      • You can verify the information in an information source against real word tests that you perform yourself.

Source: SUNY Empire State College Librarians,
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