33 Evaluating Research Sources
Allen Kruger states that many Americans simply accept news without validation; we believe the final criterion to examine for each of your sources is source integrity . Checking the integrity of your sources means that you’re ensuring that your source is sound, complete, and has no hidden agendas or other conflicts that could possibly impact the reliability of the source. For instance, you find information from a Website that accuses your city’s mayor of corruption. The source seems to have all the facts a federal investigator is reviewing the records from the city’s accounting office, and there are dates and locations listed where the mayor has met with special interest groups to receive kickbacks. You decide that this source is a perfect example to use in your speech on the rising levels of corruption in government. Indeed, you may be right. This information would be interesting and relevant on such a topic if the integrity of the source can be trusted. Checking the integrity of a source brings us back to our first criterion. Who is the author? Is the author a well-known and trusted journalist who has been investigating this story for months and is known for her/ his factual reporting? Or is the author a city employee who was fired recently and holds a grudge against the mayor? Being fired doesn’t necessarily make this employee’s story untrue, but it should encourage you to do further research before using this Website as your sole source of information. This source may have a hidden agenda for reporting this information; s/he may want revenge for being fired or wish to embarrass the city and the mayor.
It is also important to note that some sources even legitimate, mainstream sources may have some bias or slant in their reporting. Vivian Martin discusses some of the online news sources have been accused of bias. Some sources will acknowledge that the information provided is filtered through his or her outlook on the world; some may not be as forthcoming. Also note that some sources allow contributors and/or contributions that have not been validated. Wikipedia is the perfect example. By its own admission, Wikipedia is the “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit. ” While much of the information found on Wikipedia may be factual, it is often impossible to determine which data has been checked for accuracy and which data has been added by an unknown source that may lack validity. At this time, we feel it is important to stress that Wikipedia should not be used as a source for your research. Most, if not all, instructors will not give credit for a Wikipedia citation.