Using a Credible Source of Information

Using a Credible Source of Information Video

On the morning of October 31, 1938, Orson Welles, a 23-year-old director, woke up to find himself at the center of America’s attention. Welles and his Mercury Theatre on the Air had creatively adapted H. G. Wells’s novel “The War of the Worlds” into a radio drama. The drama revolved around a series of realistic-sounding news bulletins that vividly depicted a Martian invasion occurring in New Jersey.

Some of the audience, tuning into the middle of the broadcast, failed to recognize it as fiction. Believing these reports to be true, they reacted with a mix of fear and confusion. Phone lines buzzed with anxious calls to police, newspapers, and radio stations. This wave of public reaction fueled a narrative among journalists: the broadcast had triggered a national hysteria.

It’s tempting to laugh at those people for being so worked up over a radio play, but they fell victim to something we all can struggle with. In writing, reading, or any information consumption, it’s important to evaluate your sources.

Now, using poor sources in your writing might not cause you to believe aliens are attacking the planet, but they can be damaging to your reputation and your grade.

For those reasons, it’s important for you to find credible sources for your writing. If that sounds intimidating, don’t worry. In this video, we’ll cover what a source is and a tried and true method to evaluate your sources.

Let’s dive in.

What is a Source?

Sources can be anything or anyone that provides information about a given topic.

That could be a person, text, observation, video, or any medium that delivers information.

For example, say you’re writing a paper about the Civil War. You obviously haven’t experienced the war first-hand, so you need to research the topic. You might watch a Ken Burns documentary about it, or read the biography of a soldier who lived through the war. You might even talk to Civil War historians who have done extensive research on the topic. All of these could be your sources.

The problem is, there are endless sources of information available, and most of them aren’t reliable.

For that same Civil War paper, you could have cited a parody website that made up facts about the war or listened to an American Revolutionary War expert, who really didn’t have any business talking about the *Civil* War.

It’s challenging for authors to find credible references for research, but it isn’t impossible.

So, let’s look at one common way to evaluate sources.

The CRAAP Test

The CRAAP test helps you quickly evaluate sources and find the correct, credible information for your writing. It stands for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. If your source has these five things, you can trust it, but if some of these are missing, you should be cautious. Here’s how the CRAAP test works.


The first thing you need to check is the currency of your source. Admittedly, this is more important if the topic you’re writing about is current or quickly changing. If you’re writing about the current structure of the internet, you probably shouldn’t use information from the 90s as your main sources. The internet has changed drastically since then, and your writing will be dated.

Questions to ask here include:

  • When was this information published?
  • Has it been updated?
  • Is it noticeably out-of-date?

If your sources are talking about dial-up modems and floppy discs, maybe look for something else.


The next factor to consider is the relevance of your source. Relevance just means how closely the information relates to your topic or research question. Just because a source is current or authoritative doesn’t mean it’s relevant to your paper.

Again, if you’re writing about the current structure of the internet, an article about the latest Windows operating system won’t be very helpful even though the information is up to date.

So, ask yourself:

  • Does this source directly relate to my topic?
  • Is it detailed enough to add value to my writing?
  • Who is the intended audience of this source? Is it too basic or too advanced for my needs?


Next is authority. The authority of a source is about the credibility of the author or organization that produced it. An authoritative source is one created by a recognized expert in the field you’re writing about.

Say you’re writing about how to be a good basketball player. It would make sense to cite Lebron James since he’s regarded as one of the best basketball players of all time. In the same way, it wouldn’t make sense to cite my brother, since he’s as far away from Lebron James as you can get.

To assess authority, consider:

  • Who is the author?
  • What are their qualifications or credentials?
  • Are they respected in their field?


The second A is accuracy. Accuracy involves the reliability and correctness of the information. This one is pretty simple. An accurate source is free from errors, both factual and conceptual.

If you’re trying to cite a source about Abraham Lincoln, but it’s full of grammatical errors and claims he hunted vampires, you should look for a better source of information.

Questions to ask about accuracy include:

  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has it been peer-reviewed or fact-checked?
  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors that suggest a lack of quality control?


Finally, consider the purpose of the source. Why was it created? Is it trying to sell you something? Persuade you? Or is it purely informational?

If you’re writing a paper about a specific dietary supplement, it doesn’t make sense to cite someone who’s selling the supplement since they’re trying to put the product in the best possible light. It’s much better to find sources that have no monetary incentive.

The purpose of the source can greatly influence the content and its reliability. Remember to ask yourself:

  • What is the intention behind the source?
  • Is it trying to sell, persuade, or inform?
  • Does it seem objective, or is there a clear bias?


Just like what happened with the listeners of “The War of the Worlds” back in 1938, it’s possible for us to fall victim to unreliable sources. It doesn’t matter if the topic is historical, scientific, or something happening in the news— what we understand about these things really hinges on how solid our sources are. So, just remember the CRAAP test — currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose. That way, when the aliens do land, you’ll be ready.

That’s all for this review. Thanks for watching, and happy studying!



by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: December 28, 2023