Career and Jobs

5 Ways To Identify Reliable Sources (And Maintain Your Credibility)

The amount of information the world shares on a daily basis is immense and ever increasing, between tweets, emails, Facebook posts, WhatsApp messages and the number of news articles published. This can make identifying valid information from incorrect information difficult.

Your credibility hinges on the accuracy of the information you use. If you use information that others know is inaccurate, you will appear to be less credible, which can make it difficult for others to believe what you say in the future.

It can take just one instance of you sharing inaccurate information for people to start questioning your credibility. Here are five ways to help you identify a reliable source:

1.     Do you recognize the source? 

Name recognition is often the first thing you consider to determine reliability. If the name or source is familiar, you may tend to believe the information. If you have never heard of the source, you probably should do some research to learn about it. 

While name recognition can help with determining reliability, do not depend on that alone. Just because you recognize the source does not mean that it is a reliable source. 

Confirmation bias, believing what is familiar, can steer you in the wrong direction. Do your own research. Google the platform, publication or person’s name. You have to take it upon yourself to determine whether information is accurate or not.

2.     Do you feel unsure about the accuracy of the information? 

When you read a statement, how does it make you feel? Have you said to yourself, “Really?” Check in with your gut. Intuition can help you discern reliable information.

Is the argument extreme, or does the article feel balanced and include diverse perspectives? Does the content seem old and not up-to-date? Are writers or speakers making statements without making attributions?

Be wary of the use of absolute words like “all,” “everything,” “none” or “only.” Look for phrases like “research shows” followed by the indication of a reference. 

3.     Would you share the source with your manager or cite it in a paper for a class?

If your job depends on the information, would you present it? What if your grade for the course you are taking depends on the paper you are writing or the presentation you are giving?

While you make think the information is reliable, would you go a step further and endorse that information?

4.     Is the source used elsewhere or by other reputable people?

Search to determine whether the information you want to use has been used by someone else. Has it been cited in an academic journal article? Is a professor or highly regarded expert on television using the information?

Even cross-checking to see if the information has been deemed accurate by others does not absolutely determine the information is true. Determination of reliability involves judgement. The more you examine information, the more you will flex your judgment muscles and get better at distinguishing the reliable from the bogus information.

5.     How close is the assertion to the primary source? 

The closer you are to the source of the information, the more reliable the information is. For example, the text of the law is better than reading a social media post that a citizen wrote that talks about the law. The closer you are to the source, the more factually correct the information is. The further you are away from the source, the more opinion and interpretation there will be, which can stray you from the truth.

As another example, did the situation happen to the author or speaker? Or is this an account of what happened to another person? Secondary sources can be accurate and reliable, but be cognizant of how far the content strays from the primary source so you can make the appropriate judgement.

An incredible amount of information exists. If you want to be seen as credible and command respect, it is your job to determine the accuracy of the information. Is the source recognizable? Does the information sound right? Would you share the content with others? Is the information found elsewhere? How close is the information to the primary source?

What helps you to identify reliable sources? Share with me your stories and thoughts via Twitter or LinkedIn.


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