The Internet gives you access to thousands of information sources. Yet, only some of them provide credible information that is suitable for your research. Besides, print sources are not always reliable either. People and organizations can publish whatever they want. Sometimes it is difficult to evaluate the source and determine whether it is true or fake. Luckily, there are certain signs that can help you to identify credible information.

4 Basic Criteria for Evaluating Your Sources

If you find a source in Google’s top results or in the post of your favourite blogger, it does not mean that it is entirely correct. You should evaluate the credibility of the information by yourself. Your judgment should involve critical thinking and assessment of purpose, currency, authority, and accuracy of the source. Let us discuss each criterion in detail.


Think about the intended purpose of the information source and try to determine its aim. Does it inform, persuade, or sell anything? It might be helpful to check who published or sponsored the piece and whether there is an agenda behind it. If it is a reputable organization, WritePaper guidelines suggest that you can consider the source suitable for research purposes. However, in case you notice that the publisher or sponsor is likely to benefit from the point of view reflected in the source, it undermines the credibility of the information.

Besides, you need to consider the audience. Is the source written for experts or the general public? The former is usually more suitable for academic writing as it means that the piece of information provides in-depth coverage and is very specific in its nature.


Assess the timeliness of the data. Information changes often, that is why outdated sources can hardly be credible. Unless it is a historical inquiry, do not use the sources published more than 10 years ago. Research in the field of health care requires even more recent evidence (not older than 5 years). Focus on the most recent studies that are available on the researched topic. If the page contains broken links or has not been reviewed for a long time, it is a sign that the source is outdated.


Make sure that the author of the information is an expert in the area they write about. To check it, Google the author’s name and look for their credentials, affiliations, or anything else that makes their piece trustworthy. If the article lists the organization as an author, look through their ‘About Us’ page to find out more. Then, you can decide whether you can trust the information.

If it is a print source, verify the publisher’s reputation. Working with online sources, check the website domain to make sure the source is reliable. In most cases, university (.edu), government (.gov), and military (.mil) websites are credible. To find out about certain companies, use their official websites that end in .com. In turn, organizations have .org domains. Even though such sources can usually be trusted, you still need to evaluate their credibility to avoid biased or manipulative information.


The information in the source must be accurate. To verify it, compare data with similar studies in the same subject area. Ask yourself whether the piece of information reflects an opinion or fact. It will help you to identify bias if there is any. Quality sources discuss different perspectives on the topic. Besides, you can consider information credible if it is peer-reviewed or evaluated by other subject experts. Your paper will benefit if you check several sources before making conclusions. Research the topic using the primary sources suggested by your teacher or other trusted sources.

Deciding whether the source is accurate, you should also examine the evidence that the author provides to back up their claims. Check the cited sources. Are they relevant and reliable? Are there sources of statistical information or examples provided in the text? If there are no references or they are poorly cited, do not rely on such sources in your research. Additionally, if the information source, like a dissertation, is based on original research, evaluate the methods used by the author to see whether the findings are accurate.

Common Features of Non-Credible Sources

  • Logical fallacies
  • Misleading headlines or provocative images
  • Grammar or spelling errors
  • Lack of information about the author
  • Lack of evidence that supports the author’s opinion
  • Self-authored websites, social media pages, blogs
  • Incorrect data
  • Amateur design of the website or print source
  • Outdated information
  • Bias or intention to sway public opinion
  • Overgeneralization
  • Publication on fake websites
  • Emotional manipulation

As a student, you are expected to use a variety of primary and secondary sources in your papers. To get quality information and support your arguments, you need to evaluate your sources critically. Information of dubious authority, accuracy, or timeliness can compromise your conclusions and undermine your work. So, do your best to filter out the information and question everything when evaluating sources for credibility.