Answered By: Daniel Matthes
Last Updated: Sep 22, 2016     Views: 8941

A credible source in academic writing is one written by an expert in the subject area, and edited and fact-checked by multiple other experts to ensure that the information is accurate, comprehensively researched, and as free as possible from bias. This structure of credibility and authority prevents material being published which contains false data or speculation that could mislead its audience. A credible source is reviewed by peers with some expertise in the field and cites the sources it uses itself to make and support its argument.

Wikipedia, for example, is not a credible source. Its contributors are not necessarily experts, nor are its reviewers; it often does not cite sources for its claims, and those references it does cite can be of dubious authority themselves. A given article may be completely and verifiably true, but there is no academic authority to validate its truth. Wikipedia is a good place to begin to find basic details about a topic, but should not be taken as a credible source on its own.

An article in a peer-reviewed academic journal, on the other hand, was likely written by a certified professional academic, overlooked by other academics before being published; and will give a proper citation for any claim it makes that support its argument. The idea is that a reader can find the same primary sources, research, or supporting passages that the author used.

These rules are not always hard and fast; some disciplines such as philosophy are inherently more speculative than others such as biology. Judgement should be used to evaluate who is writing, what is their place within the discourse to which they contribute, and what body has published their work, in order to gauge the authority and accountability of the source.

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