Misuse of sources is the most common cause of plagiarism. Sources can be a great asset but if misused will often lead to an academically dishonest project or paper. Sources if used incorrectly can also detract from the quality, content, and credibility of a paper. This makes it imperative to correctly evaluate all sources. Here are a few simple steps that will help make evaluating sources easier and simpler.
1. Check the Quality
Is the author credible?
It is important to research the author of the source in order to determine if he/she is credible. Ask yourself:
Is he/she is an expert in his/her field?
Does the author have any other published articles?
Is he/she affiliated with any corporation, university, or political organization?
Is the publisher credible?
While this does not automtically make the source credible it does increase its credibility as it has most likely undergone some editing and verification.
Is the source biased?
Bias within an article can often diminish the credibility of the source and can detract from a good paper.
Does the source present a sufficient argument?
Does the source cite other sources within it?
If the source does cite other credible sources within it, it makes it easier to verify the information within it and often means that it is a more credible source than sources that do not cite sources.Is the source recent?
Is the source recent?
This is a very important test. With the ever increasing wealth of knowledge many old studies and findings are being proved false so it is important to make sure that the source is as recent as possible. Some old studies are very reliable and some findings are not changed by modern science and technology so this can be a little tricky. Just be sure to do some research to determine if knew studies have been done that disprove your source.
Is the information verifiable?
Is the source scholarly?
2. Check its Relevancy
Every source should be weighed to see if it is relevant to the topic and is coherent with the ideas presented in the paper. If your source distracts the reader from the main topic or presents irrelevant information it will detract from the overall quality of the paper.
3. Check for Appropriateness
All sources should be professional. If the source uses inappropriate or unprofessional language it most likely is not appropriate for your paper or project. There are plenty of applicable sources out there so it is important to make sure that the best sources are chosen.
4. Take the Time
Some of these steps may be difficult or time consuming but they are extremely important. It is easy to skip a step for “time’s sake” but this is not a good idea. It can very easily lead to academically dishonest work and often will take more time in the end.