Assessing the Reliability and Validity of Sources

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  • 0:25 Validity
  • 2:00 Reliability
  • 5:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Lombardo
In the business world, any research material must have support that can provide validity and reliability. The support must be credible and have documentation to show that it is well-researched, professional, peer-reviewed and recent.

Assessing Sources

Have you ever read something that seemed too good to be true? It is important for companies to be able to assess the reliability and validity of a source in order to be credible. In the business world, any research material must have support that can provide validity and reliability. Let's start with understanding the basics and some guidelines that can be followed to test the worthiness of a source.


Dr. Jessica Facts works for an advertising agency that has been hired by Bull Medicine, the makers of a brand new prescription drug product. The product, when taken once a day, can prevent a person from ever getting cancer. The ad agency wants Dr. Facts to check the validity and reliability of Bull's research one more time to ensure that there will not be any problems with the product's credibility in the marketplace. Dr. Facts has found one published article that supports the use of their new product. She needs to ensure that the source is credible and can be used to advertise their product. Dr. Facts is concerned with two major factors concerning the worthiness of a source.

The first is the validity of the information. This is the truthfulness of the source in respect to the information presented. Does the author of an article provide citations for sources? For example, Dr. Facts believes the medical study article, which supports the use of the new cancer-free pill, would fit that description. The study was conducted by a top cancer doctor with supportive research that was acquired firsthand by his observations of 500 patients. Lastly, the doctor's article supporting the pill was published in the credible, peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine. This is an important finding because 'peer-reviewed' means that it was published in a scholarly journal that was reviewed by other experts in the field. Dr. Facts was able to report back to the agency that the article should be used to support the ad campaign as it was a valid source.


The second piece of analyzing a source is to look at the reliability of the source. In order for a source to be reliable, the information presented must be able to be repeated. The final conclusions must be able to be created again in order to reinforce the reliability of the findings. Reliability is, literally, the extent to which we can rely on the source of the data. Dr. Facts' next task is to judge the reliability of all of the additional sources used to support the marketing and medical claims for the new product.

Let's first understand the two basic elements of reliability. First is the primary source, which is the original results of the experiment, such as eyewitness accounts, legal documents and the results of an experiment. The secondary source is when someone writes about a primary source, such as comments, discussions or observations. These secondary sources can be found in magazines, journals, online articles or even academic journals. There are some key areas that must be examined in order to judge the reliability of a source. Dr. Facts will take each source and look to see if her findings meet her approval checklist.

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