Reliability

How can you find sources you can depend on?

If you are searching a GALILEO database that indexes only scholarly journals, then you have no worries about reliability. These articles are reviewed by other scholars before they are published. If you are using the internet or popular magazines, however, you have to be your own scholarly reviewer. [Not sure of the difference? See Scholarly v. Popular].

As you browse through your search results, ask yourself these questions:

1. Who wrote it?

  • Is the author or organization an expert in the field?
  • What else has the author or organization published?
  • Is the author affiliated with a reputable university or college, organization, think tank, etc.?
  • Does the author work for an established popular magazine or newspaper with a reputation for factual reporting?
  • Has the author published scholarly books and articles as well as the popular articles or websites you're reading?

If you are not sure who authored or published a website, go to the 'root' of the URL to get to the homepage for the site. See if the homepage has an 'About Us' or similar link.

original URL: http://www.cdc.gov/program/performance/fy2000plan/2000xbicycle.htm//

root URL: http://www.cdc.gov

2. When was it written?

  • Is this current information or outdated research?
  • Does your topic require up-to-the-minute information?
  • If it's a website, when was the site last updated and are its links active?

3. Why was it written?

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is it trying to persuade the reader or simply inform?
  • Does it use emotional language or neutral language?
  • Does the author cover both sides of the issue, or only one side?
  • Does it provide footnotes or other supporting documentation?