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Evaluating for credible, authoritative, reliable sources: Accuracy

Context and tips for how to evaluate sources, including web sites, so you can use credible, authoritative, reliable sources

"A" is also for accuracy

Accuracy refers to the trustworthiness of a source.

Common pitfalls

This source is the first one listed in the database/Google/catalog. Therefore, it must be the most accurate source for my needs!

Consider this:

Depending on which one of these tools you used to search for information, the results might be listed according to date, to the popularity of a source, because the source sponsors paid a fee, or any number of other factors. Just because something is first doesn't mean that it's the best result for your needs.

Questions to ask about the accuracy of a source

Ask yourself these questions when thinking about the accuracy of a source and its information:

  1. Is the information repeated anywhere else in your other sources?
  2. Does the source include references that clearly indicate where the author found his or her data?

How do I do this?

Your tasks:

  • Review the source's references
  • Double-check the information in other sources. Can the information be corroborated in any other source?

Remember the context!

photograph of a pair of glasses, books, and cellSometimes, the accuracy of a source will be very important.

For instance, if you are writing a research paper about the effects of bullying on a child's self-esteem, it is important to use sources with accurate information in them.

Double-checking sources

You will want to review the source's references and double-check the information in other sources. Similarly, if you are surfing the internet for medical advice, you will want to double-check other sources to see if the information you find is accurate.


Image source: "Glasses Phone Screen Technology Mobile Internet Telephone" by DariuszSankowski is licensed under CC0 (public domain)

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Except where otherwise noted, the content in these guides by Tacoma Community College Library is licensed under CC BY SA 4.0.

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