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Is My Source Credible?


The definition of a credible source can change depending on the discipline, but in general, for academic writing, a credible source is one that is unbiased and is backed up with evidence. When writing a research paper, always use and cite credible sources. Use this checklist to determine if an article is credible or not:

  • Is the source in-depth (more than a page or two), with an abstract, a reference list, and documented research or data?
  • Who is the audience (researchers, professors, students, general population, professionals in a specific field)?
  • What is the purpose of the source (provide information or report original research or experiments, to entertain or persuade the general public, or provide news or information specific to a trade or industry)?
  • Who are the authors? Are they respected and well-known in the field? Are they easily identifiable? Have they written about other similar topics? What are their credentials?
  • Is the source reputable? Is it published on a reputable, non-biased website, or in a peer-reviewed, scholarly journal, and not from a newspaper, blog, or wiki?
  • Is the source current for your topic?
  • Is there supporting documentation (graphs, charts, illustrations or other supporting documentation)?

AI Literacy

Below are guidelines and tips for becoming "AI literate"--that is, gaining skills that enable you to use AI effectively, ethically, safely, and in a way that supports your learning.

In general, if you do use AI for any of your UMGC classwork, please keep these important considerations in mind: 

Be open and honest about your use of AI 

If you use an AI tool like ChatGPT for classroom work, acknowledge it, so that your professor knows. 

For example, if you use ChatGPT to draft a classroom discussion post for you, add a statement like this to the post, so you’re completely transparent about having used AI: “I used ChatGPT to write a first draft of this post. I critically evaluated the accuracy of ChatGPT’s draft, verifying facts and ideas, then I largely rewrote the AI draft in my own words and phrases.” 

If needed, you can even cite an AI tool like ChatGPT in your reference list for a writing assignment. Here are guidelines: APAMLAChicago.

Verify AI content 

AI tools like ChatGPT are imperfect. They are known to create content that simply isn’t true. 

If you use AI to generate a piece of writing for you, you have to critically evaluate everything that it wrote. Use a search engine like Google to check any facts or ideas generated by AI. 

The one thing you can never do is simply put a prompt into ChatGPT for a classroom assignment, then copy and paste the AI-created content and submit it to your professor as is. That is the opposite of the kind of engaged, active learning that helps students grow intellectually. When AI does the work for you, you miss out on the learning, which can have repercussions for your future classes and career.

If you use AI, think of it as an assistant who’s efficient but not a real expert on the subject matter. You have to carefully check what AI wrote before using it as a starting point for your work. 

Add your own research and ideas

Even if you acknowledge that you used ChatGPT and checked the content's truthfulness, you cannot (as stated above) simply turn in the ChatGPT content as your entire assignment. Use ChatGPT as a basis for classwork--for example, ask ChatGPT for good research topics, or have it help you create an outline for a paper--but do not use ChatGPT for an assignment without adding your own research and ideas.

ChatGPT can help you, but the essential, meaningful core of any paper or other assignment is your work and your thought, not whatever fundamental elements you prompted ChatGPT for.

Don’t overshare with AI 

ChatGPT and other AI tools are like any other website where you type in information. Be careful to keep your personal information safe. Use a secure computer network when interacting with AI so that hackers cannot intercept information. And never type in sensitive, personal information when you query AI. For example, if you use ChatGPT to research Social Security, don’t type in your own SSN!  


The UMGC library used ChatGPT to help write this section on AI Literacy! We typed in the prompt, "Write 2-3 paragraphs on how college students can ethically and safely use ChatGPT for research and writing.” ChatGPT responded with a brief essay that pointed out the three salient guidelines above: be open and honest, verify, don’t overshare. The library checked the accuracy of what ChatGPT wrote, and then we rewrote it extensively in our own words and phrases. We also included additional ideas, facts, and examples. 

More Information on AI

For more information, see our comprehensive guide on Artificial Intelligence.

Web Domains in Scholarly Research

Where does your source come from?

  • government or military (.gov or .mil) - Government or military websites end in .gov or .mil, and in general are reliable sources on the web. However, beware of political sites used to sway public opinion.
  • university (.edu) - University websites end in .edu, and are usually reliable. Use these sites with caution, checking for credibility and authority.
  • company website (.com) - Company websites generally end in .com. These sites are great for information about a particular company. However be aware that company websites are used to promote, so be sure the information is non-biased.
  • special interest (.org) - While many professional organizations end in .org, there are also many .orgs that are biased and promote a specific agenda.

Video Tutorial
Evaluating Websites (5:16)

Truth in the News

The Center for News Literacy makes the case for being smart consumers of online news. "The most profound communications revolution since the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press seems to make it harder, not easier, to determine the truth. The digital revolution is characterized by a flood of information and misinformation that news consumers can access from anywhere at any time... This superabundance of information has made it imperative that citizens learn to judge the reliability of news reports and other sources of information that is passed along their social networks."


Check the facts

There are many fact-checking websites available online. Before using one of these websites, remember, a good fact checking service will use neutral wording and will provide unbiased, authoritative sources to support their claims. Look for the criteria below when searching for the facts.

Evaluate sources

  • Does the website have an "About Us" section? Does it disclose a source of funding?
    Knowing this information enables you to judge the website's purpose and viewpoint.
  • Citations and evidence
    • Is information cited so that you can track down the source and verify it?
    • What evidence is used to prove the author's point? Is the evidence reliable, and is it used logically?
  • For more tips, see the sections above.

Beware of:

  • Websites that contain the suffix "lo" (e.g., Newslo) or that end in "".
    These often present false information for satirical or other purposes.
  • Websites that urge you to dox an individual or organization
  • Websites that have amateurish design, use ALL CAPS, and try to play on your emotions
    Those are often signs that information is not trustworthy and that you should research it further via other sources
  • Memes making the rounds on Facebook or other social media sites
    Try googling the topic of a meme or other doubtful story: if it is a legitimate news story, you'll probably find it covered by an established source like a major newspaper or TV news channel
  • Clickbait
    Sensationalist headlines and odd photos whose purpose is not to publish legitimate news but to increase traffic at a website

Burst your filter bubble

Web browsers and social media sites employ algorithms that feed you information you've shown a preference for. This so called "filter bubble" connects us to news that tends to reinforce our set views, rather than challenging us with new ideas. When conducting research for class or simply making up your mind on an issue, try these strategies:

  • Seek credible information from both sides of an issue: conservative and liberal; religious and atheist; industrialized and developing nations; etc.
  • Use databases that aren't influenced by your previous web searches, for example:
  • Talk to people who hold views different from yours. That solution is offered by Eli Pariser, who wrote a book and did a Ted talk on filter bubbles.

(Thanks to the following excellent guides on which we've drawn for part of the above content: Bristol Community College and Stark State Digital Library.)

OERs (Open Educational Resources)

Open educational resources (OERs) are materials that are licensed for free use, with the purpose of teaching or learning. Use this checklist to find credible and useful OER's:

  • Does the resource have a CC (Creative Commons) license where the resource can be reused or shared?
  • Who is the author and what are his or her credentials? Have they written other content on this topic? Are they a professor or expert in the subject they are writing about?
  • Is the content non-biased?

Predatory Journals

Because of the economics of higher education--professors needing to publish their research in order to gain tenure at a university--so-called "predatory" journals exist. These journals may not uphold the rigorous standards (such as peer review) of other academic/scholarly journals. Predatory journals also charge authors a sizeable fee for publishing their work.

The database companies that the UMGC Library works with are aware of the existence of predatory journals. The database companies do their best to exclude predatory journals from the results you see when you do a library search!

So for students doing research, you don't really have to worry about whether a source you found in the library is from a predatory journal--chances are, it's not! But of course it's always good to check the credibility of any source--for example, for a scholarly article, check the author's "affiliation" to make sure that they work at a university or other research center.

If you've written an article for publication and want to send it out to journals, then you should be aware of the existence of predatory publishers. Please see these tips, from Erasmus University Library, on identifying predatory journals.