How to Determine Reliable and Relevant Sources

With the presence of so much information at the disposal of students, including information from the internet, it becomes relevant that they exercise necessary choices to access academic source material that is reliable, relevant and unbiased. This should be done in close association with their academic instructors who evaluate and re-evaluate their choices or annotated bibliographies and guide them through these choices (Ellis 2006).

To determine reliable and relevant source materials, students should pre-evaluate the requirements and purpose of the essay i.e. whether it requires facts or opinion. They should compare with other sources to determine those that best suit the purpose of the essay and not settle on first choice on perception of credibility. Comparison enhances the determination of biased and suspicious source materials. In addition, the student should be open-minded and unbiased when selecting source materials for writing (Ellis 2006).

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Students should evaluate sources and their quality of information to provide information which serves as a basis for beliefs, decisions and knowledge. Unreliable and biased sources are not used in decision making because they compromise the information’s reliability and relevance hence weakening the essay.

Source evaluation is an art with no perfect marker of source reliability. However, source reliability can be determined by comparison with other sources and objectives of the essay. For example, if one needs reliable facts, he is likely to select high quality and reliable sources (Harris 2010).

Other approaches a person can use include use of Credibility-Accuracy-Reasonableness-Support checklist (CARS checklist). Though minimal sources are likely to meet requirements on this checklist, the writer should choose reliable sources and perform an in-depth analysis of the author’s credentials including his/her education, training, biography, reputation and position.

This gives a picture of the author’s level of knowledge, reliability and truthfulness. For example, if internet sources are selected, the evidence of quality control should exist, for example peer-review (Harris 2010).

Students should also compare meta-information for example abstracts summary, conclusion, reviews and ratings of various sources which give an overview of the author’s writings without having to read them completely. The student should be aware of the indicators of bias or lack of credibility such as anonymity, negative meta-information, and grammatical or spelling errors.

Determination of source accuracy is necessary because a source may be credible but outdated, hence the information it contains may not be palatable at a particular time. Therefore the student should ensure information is factual, up to date, comprehensive and detailed (Ellis 2006).

Furthermore, one should have the knowledge of the target group and purpose of source material. This helps to determine whether the material is comprehensive or biased. For example, source materials which target children tend to be less comprehensive unlike those of adults.

Unbiased sources strengthen essays and make information contained in them to be fair, reasoned, balanced and objective with no fallacies or conflicting interests. In addition, the chosen source should have listed sources, convincing evidence, and corroboration to support it, otherwise it will be biased, unreliable or irrelevant (Harris 2010).

In conclusion, students should perform regular evaluation and re-evaluation of their sources to enhance accuracy of information which may be brought about by changes. This can be enhanced with the help of academic instructors who evaluate sources in the students’ essay or annotated bibliography (Ellis 2006).

References

Ellis, D. B. (2006). Becoming a Masters Student. 4th ed. Rapid City, SD: College Survival.

Harris, R. (2010). Evaluating Internet Research Sources. Retrieved November 22, 2011, from http://www.virtualsalt.com/evalu8it.htm

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