Checking for Credible Sources

Y. Bonilla, BHP Score Team
Arizona State University, USA

*Teachers: The ASU Writing Center / BHP Score team will be hosting an extended conversation on this topic from February 27-March 3 in the BHP Online Teacher Community. Join us!

While there are several steps for critical reading outlined in BHP’s “Teaching Reading” guide, one of the most important steps for students to focus on is resource quality. Checking for resource quality is one way to engage students in evaluating the veracity of a source’s argument and content. This step can serve students both inside and outside the classroom as they find themselves inundated with information from television, print, and the web. As students encounter a variety of information, the habit of checking resource quality can remind them to check the credibility of that information. Since not all sources are credible, students need to know how to be critical evaluators and active readers of any source they read or use as evidence.

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Student reading, by Francisco Osorio. CC BY 2.0.

Following these steps or questions will allow students to make informed decisions about whether or not a source is credible.

Questions for Evaluating Source Credibility

  • Verifying Source: Is the source relevant to the essay topic or assignment prompt?
  • Identifying Audience: Is the source intended for an academic audience or the general public?
  • Evaluating Source: Who published the source and on what website did they publish it? What organization or group published the source? To what degree does the information in the published material come from reliable sources?
  • Researching Experts: Did you research to see if the author, publisher, or organization responsible for the content is an expert in the field of the topic discussed?
  • Checking for Citations and Credentials: Did you check that the citations and credentials correlate with the author or organization’s area of expertise?
  • Source Appearance: Is the source free of spelling or grammatical errors? Does the source use appropriate language and tone?
  • Evidence: What additional sources or other evidence did the author use to support his or her argument?
  • Crosschecking Information: Did you crosscheck the information presented in the source with another source to ensure the information is accurate and valid? In other words, can you find other sources to verify the accuracy of the information or evidence provided in the source you are using?
  • Assessing Sources: Does the source provide a singular viewpoint or multiple viewpoints on the topic?
  • Counterclaims: Does the source include counterclaims?

One way to have students begin looking at the credibility of sources is by incorporating the Big History Website Scavenger Hunt activity. Although the BHP Scavenger Hunt is intended to familiarize students with the BHP website, you can also use it as a model to help students better understand how to identify the credibility of sources available outside the BHP curriculum.

Another way to engage students in evaluating the credibility of sources is to provide examples for discussion in the classroom. For example, you might bring in supplemental sources, such as news articles and televised newscasts, to use with Investigation Library texts to help students distinguish between credible and noncredible sources.

Reviewing sources for credibility is a great opportunity to deepen students’ ability to think critically about the information they consume. In an era where kids and teenagers struggle to distinguish between “real” and “fake” news, this is of utmost importance.

About the author: Y. Bonilla sits on the BHP Score team at Arizona State University. You can learn more about the BHP Score team in this blog post.

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