How to know that the reference selected is a reliable source?

Conducting credible research regarding the articles and other scholarly materials, while writing an assignment, essay, report, research proposals or dissertations etc., is vital. So, one of the mostly asked questions by students is how to know whether the reference selected is a reliable source or not. Here, we will focus upon how to identify the credibility of chosen source. Major aspects that we will focus upon are as follow


It is one of the foremost elements of research information. The currency of a source can be determined through the publishing date of that article. By including a publishing date, the website allows its readers to ascertain whether the information provided has high, moderate or low currency. If the article has been published recently then the currency of that reference is said to be high, whereas, if it has been published in last 10 years then it is said to have a moderate currency. In case, the information has been published more than 10 years ago then the source is said to have a low currency. However, there is no such fixed timeline for this and the determination of currency can depend from reader to reader.


The second indication for the credible site is the name of the listed author on the information. It is a good indication of a reliable source, in case the author chooses to stand behind the information presented by him or her, along with their contact details. An author may be an individual, organisation (government or non-government), company or the publisher itself.

Authority or Domain

Authority or domain of the citation is another significant indicator in telling whether the selected source is relevant or not. Some of the URLs, website addresses or the domains are: .org (used by non-profit organisations), .gov and .mil (by government sites), .com (utilised by business organisations), .edu (reserved by educational sites). In order to analyse the authenticity of these domains, at first browse the web page to assess the email address and name or ‘About US’ or ‘Contact US’ page. In this way, you can obtain the factual information about the website publisher.


Visit the website of the publisher and find the information related to the publisher to make sure that it is not a vanity press. Usually the information published by the trade associations, university presses, research centres, professionals (like PhD holders or are having years of experience in writing proposals, thesis, research papers and so on), institutes, government offices, respected commercial publishers and like, in the form of books, reports, articles, journals, etc., are trustworthy and provide scholarly content.

Writing style

A due consideration is given to the writing style by the credible sites, for the purposes of making the presented information easy to understand. Poor grammar and spelling mistakes can indicate an unreliability of the site.

Apart from above factors, there are other factors as well which can help in determining the reliability of the source cited like the design of the website, use of word ‘pedia’ as a suffix in the name of the website such as Wikipedia, encyclopedia, and so on.


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