It's important to have information that is reliable, credible, and worthwhile in your speech. Sometimes, it's hard to determine these factors. This lesson will help you!
It's happened to the best of us. You're researching a speech, a paper, or a project and you are having a hard time finding the information you need. Finally, you locate a few sources that could be useful to you. There's only one problem -- now you're having a hard time finding the information for your works cited page.
Your sources don't have authors, some don't have dates or copyrights, and others are from websites that look less than professional. You turn in your paper or give your speech to your teacher, and she isn't happy with your research. What do you do? In this lesson, you will learn how to evaluate your sources for reliability, credibility, and worth.
Before you evaluate your source, you need to first evaluate the purpose of your research. If you are researching for an academic paper, then you need to have very credible, reliable, and worthwhile sources because your teacher or professor will be judging the authenticity of the sources. However, if you are perusing the Internet for general interest, then you are left to your own judgment of the information.
Once you've determined the purpose of your research, you are still responsible for judging the worth of your research. How do you go about doing this? There's no cut and dry method of evaluating a source. Sometimes even a professional-looking site will have inaccurate information. You will need to evaluate your source based on its reliability, credibility, and overall worth. Let's discuss how to determine the reliability of a source first.
The reliability of a source can be determined by two factors:
A document is more likely to be a reliable source of information if it has been published within the past few years. There isn't a hard cutoff here, but generally, the more recent a source, the better. This is because information changes and evolves over time. Just like we know now that the Earth isn't flat, there's a lot of information that has been disproven and proven over time. If you are looking at an article on a government or institution website, make sure the copyright on the website is recent.
A source can also be tested for reliability if it can be verified. Can you find the same information confirmed in other sources? Does the information make sense? Are there many other sources that contradict the information in your article? If you can find the information confirmed in other sources or even the article is used as a reference in other sources, then you know your research can be verified.
The credibility of a source can be determined by two criteria:
- The author's credentials
- If it comes from an unbiased source
First, you can determine the credibility of an article if you can find the author's credentials somewhere in the article. If you can't find this information, then try researching the author. If the author has credentials in the field of the article, then you know that your research is credible. If the author has no credentials or they are in a field that doesn't relate to the article, then it is recommended that you use a different piece of research for your speech.
Second, you need to determine if your research is from an unbiased source. If it turns out that the author of the article is a member of an organization that is on a particular side (for example, a member of the NRA writing an article on gun control), then it is less likely that the article is unbiased. This isn't to say that members of an organization can't write unbiased information, but your research is more credible if it comes from a source that has no clear leanings on one side of an issue. This is also true if you find the article on an organization's website.
Now that you are able to identify the reliability and credibility of a source, let's discuss the worth of an article. You'll want to examine two factors in the worth of the source or the article:
- The sponsoring organization
- Whether or not the information is peer reviewed
The sponsoring organization of a website is the primary source for the article's worth. The sponsoring organization is the institute that hosts the website. There are many institutes, companies, government organizations, and educational institutions that are commonly known to be worthwhile and credible sources. These places have been around for a while and have developed a reputation for accuracy and reliability.
You'll want to notice the professionalism of the website. If there are links that lead to nowhere or ads popping up all over the place, then the website's organization is not likely to be an accurate source of information.
If you are doing your research on a database, then you will most likely have access to some academic periodicals. Many periodicals have a peer review process where other experts in the field will review an article for accuracy and soundness. This doesn't mean that the reviewers agree with what is being said in the article, but they have approved that it is a sound and worthwhile piece of academic literature. Checking to see if an article has been peer reviewed is an excellent way to judge the worth of an article.
Don't get a low grade on a speech or a paper just because you run into trouble when citing your sources. Use a few simple tricks to judge the reliability, credibility, and worth of an article:
- To test if an article or source is reliable, make sure you evaluate the recency and verifiability of the article. Has the article been written within the past few years? What is the copyright on the website? Can you track down the accuracy of an article? Can you find the same information confirmed in other sources?
- To see if an article is credible, then you need to examine the author's credentials and see if the information comes from an unbiased source.
- To verify the worth of the article, you can look at the sponsoring organization and if the article has been peer reviewed.
Once you determine the reliability, credibility, and worth of your research, then you can rest assured that you have the best information possible for your speech.
After this lesson is done you should be able to:
- Recall how to determine the reliability of your resource
- List the two criteria used to determine the credibility of a source
- Describe how to judge the worth of an article