Determining Credibility of Research

When doing research, it is important to determine the credibility and reliability of the sources at hand. Credibility can be seen as an important aspect of establishing trustworthiness. Finding reliable sources for research is vital because unreliable sources can make research seem less credible. The following practices can help you determine the credibility of your research.

Determining credibility requires you to do additional research. You want to look at who is writing. What is the author’s background? What is their education? One of the sources that can be used is an Encyclopedia. It is highly discouraged to use sources such as Wikipedia because Wikipedia is not transparent about who is editing their entries. You can find their handles and their self-descriptions, but do you really trust those potentially illegitimate sources? For academic sources, use other tools. Ensure that the author or organization has a research presence besides what they write themselves. Check out the author’s H-Index score. 

Relevance is a determination of whether a research source has anything to say about what you are researching. If you are studying Picasso’s blue period and come across an article that mentions Paloma Picasso’s perfumes, think about if it is relevant to what you’re doing.

Authority has a lot in common with credibility, but not entirely. Depending on the information you want, authority changes. When writing about art history, look for authorities in art history. Think about what you need and where it might be located. In the Ebsco databases, you can choose your “Source Type” so you can specify academic journals, or magazines, or conference reports. 

Accuracy can be tricky if you are new to a field of information. Determining accuracy requires reading and learning as much as possible about something before forming an opinion. Doing this is not easy. You also want to think about what you already know and whether new information you get fits in with what you know. It is important to remember that sometimes information is so revolutionary it can be hard to tell if it is accurate. Accuracy can change over time, and it is essential to be willing to change your minds if new information comes with good, solid evidence. 

Purpose requires you to figure out why someone is presenting you with information. A YouTube star may be showing creative and unique makeup techniques, but their aim could be to sell that makeup. A late-night talk show interviewee might be selling their new movie. An opinion piece may demonstrate bias, whether it is obvious or not. These are all important things to figure out.

When doing research, you want to find the best information to support your ideas, which requires careful evaluation of the information you may come across. Keeping in mind credibility, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose will help you with this.

This piece was written with the help of Martha Neth from the SLC. The SLC welcomes students from all programs both on-campus and online who strive to do better in the classroom while perfecting their craft. Self-schedule an appointment with the SLC here or email the SLC at learning@rmcad.edu.