Guide to Credible Sources 101: What Is a Credible Source? And More Questions

Writing guide
Posted on September 28, 2023

If you’re a new research author and want to know how to appeal to your audience, you need to understand how to make your message credible. But how do you do it? What credible source dimensions are there? Here, you can learn how to find the most credible sources and be a trustworthy writer anywhere you publish your work.

Why a Credible Source Is Important

As a newbie to the world of academic writing, you might not understand why credible sources are important. However, it is useful to understand what does credibility mean:

  • It shows the ability of the author to appeal to the audience and to present the information without a biased approach.
  • Credibility shows that what you wrote can actually be trusted.
  • Credible sources mean that the author’s texts are trustworthy.

In other words, credibility is your key to the world of professional, creative, and academic work. Today, with the world going into the sphere of rapid information exchange, people are less likely to understand what makes an article credible and whether the facts they read about are true.

Because today’s communication is so rapid and the information often goes unchecked, people who want to live in our society face the problem of biased, false, or not relevant facts. Every fact you read about treatment at home, helping your friend, or even the news can turn out to be false if you don’t pay close attention to it. If you’re a writer, your audience trusts you and thinks that you possess the needed competence or at least know where to find a credible source.

What is more important is that every source is built on previous research. It means that if society lets its sources go unchecked, it will eventually cause a domino effect where the scope of false information will be so immense that it would be impossible to check it. If you don’t know how to distinguish between credible sources and false data, you will face issues in your academic and professional life.

Credible Sources Definition and Main Types

What are credible sources? Let’s work out the credible source definition. It’s one thing to talk about credibility and another to understand what sources can actually be perceived as trustworthy.

What does “credible” mean?

Despite what you think, every source can define credible differently. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, credibility can be attributed to the author “offering reasonable grounds for being believed or trusted”. Credibility can be attributed to the author, speaker, journal, stories, or even the information or evidence presented in a legal situation. So, many sources can have such power of credibility.

Contrastingly, the Collins dictionary defines credible in different ways: it is “able to be trusted or believed” or a policy or initiative that can be successful. This dictionary’s meaning also includes any type of celebrity with a character considered the most credible in a particular field.

However, the general belief is that anything related to credibility can be either a source (articles or books) or people (an author, speaker, or politician).

Credible sources

How to Determine If a Source Is Credible

If you don’t know how to tell if a source is credible, here are some short guidelines for credible sources.

  • Journal articles. The most reliable sources for research you will use in your career are primary or secondary sources.
  • Books. Make sure that these were published by a reliable company. If you’re unsure about it, google the competence and whether the author is credible in the topic.
  • Websites. Determine who the audience for every source is and think if the published information is reliable. You can even research to know if the highlighted facts are comparable to the other sources.
  • Media. Regardless of the type of media you have chosen, think about the message, the audience, publication date, and affiliations. If it’s a specific religious group or a politically-based source, the chosen publication would be biased and not trustworthy as a result.

What makes a source credible:

  • It is not biased
  • It has good affiliations
  • You know the date
  • You know the author
  • It has flawless grammar
  • The web address is safe

Where to Find Credible Sources

Let’s begin with the most important question. How to find credible sources? Where do you look for them?

  • Libraries

Your university will definitely assist you in finding articles based on your topic, author, date of publication, and many other things. The primary disadvantage of this method is that your librarian will probably get tired of helping you all the time, but they are the most credible people to ask for help. Just make sure you learn how to navigate your library and know when to do it independently and when to ask for some pro assistance.

  • Online databases

Some credible websites for research allow you to seek exclusively scholarly articles and books. Some of them are Scopus, Google Scholar, ScienceDirect, JSTOR, ERIC, and Web of Science, but many more are based on your field of science.

  • Your uni’s databases

Many credible sources were exclusively bought by your learning institution, and if you’ve got your login credentials, it’s easy for you to have access to the necessary filters.

  • Search engine

This one’s a little bit tricky because the credibility of any search tool is debatable. But you can use tools (for example, Google has everything you need from date to filter types) that allow you to find the best sources of information.

Jacob Lee Top-10 Writer at

If society lets sources go unchecked, it will cause a domino effect where the scope of false information will be so immense that it would be impossible to distinguish truth from lies.

Basics of Evaluating Web Sources

Now that you’ve learned about the importance of credibility and where to look for trustworthy sources, let’s move to the first thing that often comes to mind. For many assignments at school or uni, you won’t need to use articles or journal publications. Instead, you’ll look through the media published online. Here are some of the qualifications for a website credibility check.

  • Look at the web address. Credible sources don’t usually have an unprotected internet connection because it’s available to the broad public. Instead, such websites are often considered fishy since they can subtly steal your information or simply be full of spam. The websites that contain .org, .edu, or .gov in their address are usually considered to have a much greater power of fairness because they belong to official, educational, or government organizations.
  • Check the author. Unless it’s an official organization that has enough credibility to be reliable even without the author, all online publications, even media, should be with a named writer. And the name shouldn’t be a nickname, like “cooldude23,” but a real one. Such an individual’s character should be known to the majority of people in the field. Even if you’re unfamiliar with this writer, it’s important to do additional research and figure their credibility out. Are they known to be biased? Are they simply a celebrity who knows nothing about the topic?
  • Check the date. Not every source should be relevant, but the researching process is rapidly changing. A source published in 2001 would not have the same power as a source that emerged in 2022. When talking about maintaining credibility in most subjects, it’s important for articles to be updated regularly.

Main Predictors of Media Credibility

You probably know it already, but media isn’t the same as a simple website or journal article. It includes many features, but usually, they are the communication channels that can bring news to the public. It can be difficult for a person to assess media credibility, especially if it’s not a well-known source.

How do you know if a source is credible? Analyze the affiliations

As with the previous sources, you should analyze the affiliations of the media source and the author. For example, credible news sources do their best to avoid being considered biased. If the writer is a celebrity with known antagonism or interest in the topic, the text is likely to have more sociability than real bases of power. Make sure to study the organization that created the media. What stories does this company promote? Some proudly announce themselves as belonging to a particular political group, so their credibility in some subjects is always questionable.

Check the speaker’s or author’s biography

Also, you can reseearch the speaker. Many famous sources have celebrity individuals who speak on crucial topics, and you can probably at least trust their good intentions. For instance, you’d probably trust Emma Watson speaking about women’s rights more than some you’ve never heard of before.

Consider the source’s intentions

In addition, pay close attention to researching the picture and the presented stories. Do the images on the video or film seem like they were the subject of a heavy edit process? You know that the power is based on perception: does it seem like the picture presented is just too perfect? Does the media company offer other sources, or does it seem to represent only one opinion?

Good Predictors of Media Credibility

What Is a Credible Source When You’re Facing a Problem?

If you can’t find credible sources for research or some aspects are lacking, here are things you should consider.

  • Not a recent publication date. In some situations, it is permissible if your research process is based on sciences that have yet to add much. It is also entirely adequate for the primary sources to be old. Balance them with the other, more recent ones.
  • Unknown author. If you don’t know about the speaker or the writer, check the credibility of the publishing company.
  • Suspicious design. If you don’t like the design of a website, this media should be avoided, especially if there are lots of ads.
  • Few sources for your topic. If you can’t find anything suitable for your research, find links to other sources that talk about a relatively similar theme.

Who Can Tell You What Makes a Credible Source

If you are unsure about what sources are the most credible, you can ask several people. Always remember your librarians and professors. These people have lots of experience and a high level of sociability and power to send you links to credible sources. You can also talk to your friends and search for your social circle. Don’t forget that we use the Internet for a reason. Check social media, but make sure to be careful: a lot of links and information there are unchecked at best and entirely untrue at worst.

You’re on the Right Track

Hopefully, you have learned about credibility and how to find the sources that will support your argument. It may seem like a difficult task, but every type of competence requires hard work. With more experience, you’ll learn how to influence your readers and understand what sources and media to trust.

About authors
James Snyder A Top-10 writer at
James is one of the most prominent authors on our team with more than 7 years of experience. He specializes in writing essays and coursework. James loves to work from home with a cup of hot chocolate and his cat Archibald.
Kate Roth A Top-10 writer at
Kate likes to read long stories and write essays. She’s experienced in both academic writing and marketing activities, so she can tell everything about a writer’s job in a few simple words. You can use our website to request the help of our experts anytime.
Upgrade your essays with these FREE writing tools!
Get started now