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RHET:1030/1040/1060: Rhetoric (Writing & Reading, Speaking & Reading)

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

After searching for your topic, take time to choose the best resources. Google may rank top results highly, but you need to critically evaluate sources to meet your research needs. Your credibility as a researcher improves when you select information carefully.

Imagine your instructor asking, "Why did you choose that source?" Saying "It was at the top of the list" isn't enough. Instead, you could say, "I chose this source because the author is a respected journalist who interviewed experts on the topic."

Evaluating Sources for Credibility by North Carolina State University Libraries

Fact-Checking Techniques

One strategy that you can use is "lateral reading." 

  • When you find information from a source you haven't encountered before, do some research about the source BEFORE deciding whether you should listen to anything the source has to say.
  • Try to determine a consensus about the source by researching it using Google and Wikipedia.
  • When conducting research on Wikipedia, read the citations at the bottom of the page and open the links to those citations.
  • Some good things to research are the publisher, author, and topic at hand.
  • Read a minimum of 4 to 5 new sources to see what they have to say about your original source.
  • If you can't find 4 or 5 sources about something, that is information in itself. It means you're probably looking at a site that doesn't have an established reputation. Proceed with caution.
  • Once you determine a consensus from these new sources, make a judgment call about the original source's trustworthiness.

To read more about "lateral reading" and other fact checking strategies and resources, visit the "Evaluating Online Information" subject guide:

Below is a source that we aren't sure about. Let's do lateral reading on it and learn about it so we can figure out how much we can trust it!

  • Payne, Marissa. “Tuition Hikes May Put Dreams on Hold.” The Daily Iowan, 22 Aug. 2017, p. 1A.
  • First, DON'T READ THE ARTICLE. Let's do lateral reading on it first to figure out how much we can trust it.
  • To start the lateral reading, let's think of the 3 main things to find information about regarding the source: publisher, author, and topic
  • Let's start with googling the publisher: The Daily Iowan
  • Then, let's google the author of the article: Marissa Payne
  • Finally, let's google the topic: "tuition hike iowa 2017"
  • If we find enough clues that point to the article's trustworthiness (4-5), then we can more comfortably use the information in our essays/projects. If not, we can try to use only a bit of the information you can prove with outside sources, or look for another source altogether.