Start by Looking For Basic Credibility Clues
Familiarity with technology and software has become a valuable skill, with many
employers admiring college graduates' digital literacy. Much of this literacy is developed
while working on homework: College assignments, papers, and group projects all typically
require online research to some degree.
In an era of alternative facts, fake news, and rampant misinformation, strong online
research skills have never been more important. As professors have reminded students for
decades now, simply going to Wikipedia for all of your information won't cut it. Good
grades in college often hinge on finding good sources.
But what makes a source credible? And how can you differentiate reliable sources from
When you first encounter an online source, you should actively search for basic credibility
cues. This includes checking the URL — .gov (government) and .org (nonprofit) domains
tend to be more credible sources, while misspellings or a .co domain may be red flags.
Proper use of language and a well-functioning website can also indicate authority. By
contrast, less credible websites often have telltale signals, such as high pixelation; flashing
ads; and ungrammatical, misspelled, or highly passionate language.
How to Tell Whether a Source Is Credible in 5 Steps
College librarians advise students to put every source they find through the CRAAP test:
Whether you're writing a research paper for school or investigating a bold claim making
the rounds on social media, you should always check to make sure the sources are
credible. Here are the most important questions to ask yourself as you evaluate an online
Is This a Current Take?
Look at the date of publication or the last refresh of a page or article. Depending on the
type of information, if it hasn't been touched for a few years, it's possible further findings
have come to light that may complicate, supplement, or undermine the assertions. Keep in
mind that information in some fields, such as healthcare and technology, can rapidly