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Information Essentials: Credible sources of information

Credible sources

Before we start researching our assignment, we need to decide on where to look for credible information. After all, not all information is equal, and with such easy access to information via the Internet, it is becoming more and more complex to separate the good, from the bad or the downright ugly. Fake news is in the News these days!

It is important to note that no source is without bias, however, a credible source will provide evidence to help you understand the way its argument is positioned.

Different types of information and sources of information meet different needs. If you are information savvy you will have the skills to source information that enables you to make quality, reliably informed decisions.

For example, if you require in-depth exploration of a field, then an Academic book may be suitable, or a very targeted explanation of a particular topic may be found in an Academic journal, however, both of these sources may take at least a couple of years to make it to publication. If you are looking for news or commentary, you may wish to look at more popular sources, such as a quality public affairs magazine, reliable news source, or even a reputable blog!

However, these different sources suit different requirements, and for constructing a critical argument in a university assignment, you need to find relevant, expert, evidence-based sources.

  • Evidence-based

Credible information helps you check its findings, by providing you the sources and references they used to make their argument.

  • "Peer reviewed"

These works have been checked and edited by experts in the field, and are the best place to find credible, up-to-date research. This term does not apply to books or eBooks. 

  • Relevant

Finally, just because a source is credible, evidence-based, and recent, make sure it is relevant to not only your topic, but also to the audience you are writing for (there's no point citing a high school textbook for a university assignment!)

Sometimes, the Limiting words in your assignment topic will dictate the sources you can use, such as "scholarly or academic" sources, make sure to follow these instructions.

  • If your assignment asks for “Scholarly or Academic” sources, you may limit your searching to “Peer reviewed” articles. Great for up-to-date, in-depth material to base your assignment on.
  • If you need to “outline” or “explain” a broad theory or area of study, an Academic book will give you a view of a whole study area.
  • Government reports and websites are great for statistics, and evidence. Look for reputable sites ending with .gov or .edu


Where do you look? (In order of preference)

  1. First, check any readings your Lecturer has placed on your Unit Reading List. See our video on Using Reading List.

Note: It's always a great idea to look over the reference List of these texts, as well, because if the work you're looking at is credible, then their sources should be, too.

  1. Look through Academic books and any unit textbooks you have to get a grasp on the central concepts of your field, and help develop the terms you'll need for your own searches.
  2. The ECU Library is a great place to start your own research. It searches all the items ECU has access to, including books, DVDs, music, electronic articles, and more.
  3. Databases (check the Library Guides for specific titles.) Whilst ECU Library Search does search most of our electronic databases, each database is subject-specific, and gives you unique ways to search for material in your field.
  4. Google Scholar. Simpler, and less precise to use than a database, Google Scholar is a valuable resource for broadly searching academic literature. It does not necessarily reflect material you have (free) access to as an ECU student.
  5. Google, or Web Search engines. Not so useful for Academic sources, but can still be useful for finding Government reports, etc.

See Also