Firstly, one should consider how reliable the information should be (Greer 2006). People have varied credibility standards, and this depends on the manner in which the information will be applied. When writing academic papers, one should be strict about the sources and focus specifically on scholarly articles. On the other hand, a person searching for information on unclogging a toilet should indulge in a comprehensive search on the internet. However, if the project lies somewhere in between, such as website creation, it is vital to evaluate the sources and judge whether to include the information.
Secondly, one should consider the working medium. The more investment made in creating and publishing the material, the higher the likelihood that the information is reliable (Greer 2006). For instance, printed material is more costly than a blog on the internet, which anybody can freely publish. Peer-reviewed journals are reliable sources because every article undergoes a rigorous process of review involving many professional reviewers.
In addition, one should research the author. A more credible source is that written by a degree holder in the interest subject. Higher qualifications are an added advantage (Broderick 2007). If there is no author or organization named, the source is incredible. However, if the work is original, one should evaluate the ideas’ merit, not the credentials. The latter have seldom guaranteed innovation. Scientific history reveals that big progressions in science emanate from outsiders, not the established.
The date should also be checked. One should find out the date of publication or revision. In subject areas like sciences, current sources are essential. However, in other fields such as humanities, inclusion of older material is necessary (Greer 2006). There is a possibility that one may be using an older version whereas an updated version has been published. One should look at academic sources in a scholarly database to find out if there is a more recent version. If so, one should be more confident with the source (Greer 2006). Investigation of the publisher is mandatory. An item published by a university press is more scholarly (Greer 2006).
Moreover, one should ascertain the intended audience. That is possible by perusing the table of contents, preface, abstract, the first few pages or chapters and the index of the article (Broderick 2007). Are the depth, breadth and tone suitable for the project at hand? Using a source too specialized for one’s needs could lead to misinterpretation of the information provided, which could hurt one’s own credibility, in the same way, as an unreliable source.
It is also advisable to check the reviews. If a book targeted laypersons, online reviews can disclose why the source was criticized by other people (Greer 2006). If significant controversy surrounds the source’s validity, one should avoid it, or examine it with great caution.
Citing reliable sources indicates credibility. Evaluation of the source’s sources is, therefore, vital. However, it is sometimes proper to verify that the cited sources show a credibility pattern and conform to the context (Broderick 2007).
Additionally, it is advisable to identify bias. An author who is linked financially or emotionally to the subject cannot fairly represent views on the subject. Research is necessary for ascertaining relationships indicating the likelihood of bias (Broderick 2007). Words that indicate judgment should be handled cautiously. Conclusions that describe things as right, wrong, bad, or good should be examined.
Not to forget, evaluation of consistency is necessary (Greer 2006). Sources applying different standards to people who disagree or agree with them are suspicious. If the source praises gives praise to a politician for poor leadership, but criticizes an opposing fellow politician for changing position on opinion polls, there is a higher chance that the source is biased.
Lastly, financial sources for research that is sponsored deserve investigation (Broderick 2007). One should determine the sources of funds for the study to get an idea of possible influences on that study. Different funding sources can divert the presentation of information in a manner that pushes their personal agenda.