How do you know if a source is right for your research? Below are some questions you can ask about your sources. There are no good or bad sources, but sources can be useful or not useful based on the sorts of evidence you're looking for.
- Who is the author? What do you know about the author’s background? (hint: Google the author). What makes the author an expert on this particular topic (remember that experience and research are markers of expertise as well as education)?
- What journal, magazine, organization, or website published this information? Look for an about page on the publisher's website (or explore their website) and also Google the name of the publication/organization/website (or look for a Wikipedia page about it) to learn more about the publisher of the information. What kind of reputation does it have? What is their purpose in sharing this information? Is it known for promoting specific points of view?
Can you tell where the information in the article came from? Do they share any information from other sources or does it seem like they’re sharing their opinion? If they used other sources, do those sources seem worth trusting?
Based on your answers to these questions, would you trust this source? If not, could anything from this article still be useful? Often articles link to other useful resources or mention other authors and studies that could be helpful.
You may not get good answers from all of these questions and still trust a source. For example, an opinion piece from a noted expert in a specific field could be a useful source, but chances are, they are not going to be citing sources. Information from the Centers for Disease Control website is trustworthy, but much of it doesn't have an author. You have to weigh each of these factors when making your decision.