In decades past, we used books and articles in periodicals to do research.  It was safe to assume that publishers had done their due diligence to ensure the credibility of sources.  Today with so much information online, it is much easier to do research, but it is also easy to fall into the trap of reading articles from unreliable sources.


TAARP

TAARP is an acronym that helps us remember the five important things to look for to ascertain if a resource is credible.

Timeliness – how recent was the article, post or journal written?  Could more studies have been done or events taken place since this article was published?  Always check when a page was last updated.

Authority – what authority does the author have?  An author’s name, credentials and professional affiliation should be at the bottom of the article, if it is not, the source would not be considered credible.  Does the article include footnotes, a bibliography, credits and quotations?

Audience – who is the audience for this website?  Is it for entertainment purposes or for scholarly reserach?

Relevance – can you connect the information in the journal to your thesis?

Perspective – biased sources can be helpful for understanding different viewpoints, but extremely biased sources often misrepresent information.


Assess the Sources of Your Sources

Grammar, spelling and punctuation errors are often an indication that an article was written by an amateur.  Someone in authority on a topic will often review and edit a piece to ensure that there are no glaring grammatical errors.  If an article has spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors, be wary that the facts presented in the article may also be erroneous.
 
Advertisements are often another sign that an article is not credible.  Have you ever looked up a health related concern and read an article about vitamins or supplements you need to correct the condition only to find those items for sale at the end of the article and then you question if the article was just trying to sell you something?  Be wary of any article that advertises a product.
 
Broken links (i.e., links that do not connect to another site) are often a sign that a website is not maintained or that the author hopes no one checks the links because the information they presented can not be supported on other platforms.

Assess the Credibility of the Author

If an author’s name, credentials and professional affiliations do not appear anywhere on the page, do not trust the article.  Someone who is an expert on a topic and takes the time to write a journal will include their name and credentials so that you know you can trust them as a reliable source.

Dig Deeper

 Always dig deeper.  Cross-reference with other news sources.  Check sites that you know and trust. Search for additional articles on a topic by other authors also with credentials listed.
 

 The URL of a Website

The three letters at the end of a website address mean something.

Informational websites will end in .edu or .gov

Advocacy websites end in .org

News, marketing and business websites end in .com

 

 It is not always easy to know if a web source is a credible site, but if the author’s name and credentials are listed, there are no grammatical errors,  you can verify the information on several well-known sources, there are no broken links and the article or website is updated frequently, the article is more likely to be considered credible.


Sources for this article:

Evaluating Online Sources. (2020). Columbia University. https://library.columbia.edu/libraries/undergraduate/evaluating_web.html

Step-by-Step Guide & Research Rescue: Evaluating Credibility. (2020). BYU Library. https://guides.lib.byu.edu/c.php?g=216340&p=1428399


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