How to Spot a Credible Website for Your Paper

Updated on July 1, 2018
Elizabeth Bradstr profile image

I am a full-time student and avid reader and writer, hoping to obtain my Master's Degree in English.

You Should Look For:

  • The Author’s Name
  • Their Qualifications or Experience
  • Time and Date of Publication
  • Quality of Website
  • The Use of Sources
  • Who Edits the Article

All of these things are important when it comes to researching online. The internet provides an abundance of information, but it's up to you to ensure that what you're reading and using is factual and accurate.

Beware of someone using a fake name like “FalconPunch_26”.

1. Author

Always look at who wrote the article you’re reading. An article should allow you to see who wrote it and usually provides a small blurb about the author and their qualifications. If an article does not provide the author’s name, it may not be as credible as you originally thought. Most scholarly sources have at least one author, and some have several.

Look for authors with degrees and important titles as well as real names. Beware of someone using a fake name like “FalconPunch_26”. They probably aren’t a reliable source of information. People who are reliable take their online presence seriously.

You should also look for a photo of the author, if available. The photo should be a real person, not a drawing or a default grey placeholder. Be wary of anyone who is unwilling to show their face.

Information on websites should be as recent as possible

2. Time And Date of Publishing

Looking for the time and date of an article is incredibly important. It lets you know how recent the information is. We are constantly improving technology and medicine, so the information on websites should be as recent as possible. If a scientific discovery was made eight years ago that affects our knowledge of a disease, an article on the same topic from ten years ago would not be as accurate as you may think, despite whoever wrote it.

A website with reliable information should present itself seriously.

3. The Quality of the Website

Much like how the author takes themselves seriously, a website with reliable information should present itself just as seriously. Excessive ads and the ad content of the website should give you insight into what kind of website you’re accessing. If the ads seem inappropriate or like clickbait, it’s possible you’ve simply stumbled onto a website that’s just trying to get traffic.

Ads are useful and help support websites so that the services they provide can remain free, but if you see ads that are overly sexual in content or otherwise inappropriate for the topic you’re researching, it’s probably not a website you want to stay on.

You should also look for any excessive typos or misspellings. This ties back to the author as well. If a website or author is serious and credible, it is unlikely that they will make several, often recurring, mistakes.

Typos are not the only way to identify a lack of quality. Most scholarly websites will present information in an unbiased way. An argumentative piece can be an effective source as long as it uses facts to back up the stance it presents. If a piece uses emotional reasoning with nothing else to back up their claims, consider finding another source to use. Arguments can be useful, but biases in a piece can be a sign that an article is not credible.

4. Sources

Arguably the most important aspect of a credible article is their use of sources. Now, sources are not necessarily required if the author is an expert in their field, but even they will sometimes cite outside articles or research. They are typically found at the bottom of the page, and they should include links to the webpage they were found on (if they were found online).

A credible article that has compiled information should allow you to see where the information was obtained. If a source uses several statistics but provides no source, the author either plagiarized the material or the material is not trustworthy.

5. Who Edits The Article

As stated earlier in the article, Wikipedia is considered unreliable because anyone and everyone can access its information and change it. Be wary of websites with this ability. If someone who is unqualified to have a say on a topic can make changes to something regarding it, the article (and all other articles on the website) should not be used.

I hope this information helps you write accurate and factual essays and papers. Having reliable information is the key to success in any field, and I hope to help as many college students as possible with the knowledge I've picked up from past experience.

Now go and write a great paper!

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