Choose credible sources

High-quality information for college courses

Being able to identify high-quality information is an important skill for college and for life. In the previous module (“Fake News”), we discussed some of the specific ways that information is manipulated and fabricated and misleading in the channels that you might interact with in so-called “everyday life” (for example, in the news or in social media). The “Choose Credible Sources” module below goes deeper into the specific demands of research, writing, and thinking for college assignments and courses. Together, the “Fake News” and “Choose Credible Sources” modules should help you find a wide range of credible sources to help you make stronger arguments and be more successful in college.

Choose credible information

Do you believe everything anyone tells you? Do you believe everything you read? Then, obviously you won’t believe the truthfulness of everything you encounter while doing research, right?

Although the Web makes finding information easy, evaluating the information you find is often not so easy. Your professors will expect you to use credible, high-quality information for your academic work.

The following video answers these 3 questions about evaluating sources for credibility:

  • What does it mean for a source to be “credible”?
  • Why is it important to use credible sources?
  • How can you tell if a source is credible?

Credit for “Evaluate sources for credibility” above: Video adapted from “Big Picture” series by North Carolina State University libraries. Only the last few seconds have been changed, and only to point to TCNJ Library resources. Original available at

Evaluating what you find

TrueWe all want information that is true. If you ask someone what time it is, you want them to give you the correct time, don’t you? Of course, knowing what’s true and what’s not can get tricky. Other words that people use to describe this characteristic of information include: accurate, reliable, credible, trustworthy, and authoritative. Just as you may trust certain people more than others to give you true and accurate information, certain sources of information are more credible, and more likely to be true, than others.
CompleteJust like courts of law, not only do we want the truth, we want the whole truth! Complete information is detailed, thorough, comprehensive, scholarly. In academic work, sometimes the details make all the difference.
Easy-to-use information is readily available, well-written, well organized, at your level, and useful.
Up-to-DateUp-to-date information is current. The mere fact that something is on the Internet or in electronic format is not a guarantee that it is current or regularly updated.
Not BiasedInformation that is not biased is balanced, competent, professional, serious, critical, scholarly, and authoritative. Some commercial websites may exhibit bias because they are trying to get people to buy their product; political websites often select or slant information to suit their point of view or agenda.


 Finding high-quality information

Peer Review
Editorial Review
Use information that has been peer reviewed, or examined for accuracy, by an editorial board. Peer reviewed information is usually found in scholarly journals. Editorially reviewed information includes books by university presses and articles in major magazines. Notice if the person writing the information is an expert who is recognized as an authority in the field.
CompareDon’t use just one source. Use multiple sources and compare the coverage. Look for similarities and examine any discrepancies.
CorroborateIf your topic is controversial or includes numbers and statistics, see if you can find another source to back it up that has the same numbers, or similar evidence.
Probe for biasAsk yourself if the person or organization responsible for the information could have an interest or agenda that is motivating their writing.


High-quality information for life

Knowing how to evaluate will help you do better work and make stronger arguments in college, but it will also help you make better decisions in other areas of your life, such as finding accurate medical information, voting on issues during election time, presenting reliable information to your coworkers in a meeting, etc.