The quality of your sources is a vital factor in the value of your research product. The terms validity, reliability, and credibility are often used interchangeably when discussing sources, and the core concept of each definition is that the information is trustworthy.
Your work is only as good as the foundation on which it’s built, so make sure you purposefully evaluate your sources. There are a variety of acronyms and strategies to help you structure this evaluation. The ones included below are not the only methods, and some have been subject to criticism. That said, these strategies are still commonly recommended and provide easy acronyms for the important elements of information evaluation; you’ll notice many elements repeating across acronyms. For a longer list of options check out this shortcut roundup.
5W’s from journalism (and history - origin debated)
RADAR from Jane Mandalios
SIFT from Mike Caulfield
Keep in mind
Finally, don’t take our word for it. Feel free to search for other sources on evaluating information (like this infographic, this research guide, or this set of instructions). Many libraries create content on this topic, for example Kansas State, and U. Minnesota.
Legal sources present some specific issues when it comes to validity. Take a look below for reminders by type of source.
Cite Checking Software
Bloomberg, Lexis, and Westlaw all offer brief-checking tools which allow you to upload a document (a brief) and receive an analysis, generally including: a review of the included cases and any updates or negative treatment; and suggestions for additional relevant cases.
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