What Counts as a Credible Source? | LET’S GET PUBLISHED


Question: What’s one way to stand out when submitting an article for publication?

Answer: Prove you know how to do research. Seriously. 

The difference between a blog post and an article? Research. If you can show an editor you know how to back up what you want to say, the right way, you’ll give yourself an advantage above those who don’t and can’t—even if it’s a small one.

So where can you go to find credible information you know you can trust?

Info from an organization, provided by a group of professionals

Anyone can post anything they want online. It’s easy to create a website, make it look professional and flaunt that .org like you’re an industry leader even when you’re not. Foundations, associations, .govs, they’re your starting point. If you’re looking for facts, you can be confident you’ll find them there.

If an organization has an “About” page, explore it. See who its founder is, who runs it, what their mission is. Beware of the use of “I,” which is an immediate sign that the “organization” you’ve found is actually a blog, usually run by one person. It doesn’t mean you can’t read up on their material to get some ideas on your topic. Many professionals have blogs, and they do know what they’re talking about some of the time. It just means you shouldn’t rely too heavily on them for credible information to include in your article. 

Journal articles (not just the abstract) 

Have you ever stumbled upon the abstract of a journal article, amazed that it summarizes the results of a study that align perfectly with the point you’re trying to make? We all probably have at some point, but it’s not the most credible route to take. For one thing, one study doesn’t prove an association to be true, and for another, saying a study was done on a topic doesn’t give readers much background information on the topic, which is what readers want to read about in the first place.

The average person isn’t going to be able to interpret all of the complex terminology practiced researchers use in their published works, but you’ll be rewarded immensely for trying. Just glancing at the abstract of one study doesn’t prove much, and it definitely doesn’t prove you can do your own research. It just proves you can read an abstract, which are 250 words or less.

Articles that cite other credible research (further reading)

You can contribute to the more-reliable-Internet-stuff movement by passing along good info others have included in their own articles. Linking to an article that reinforces your points is helpful, but it’s even better when the articles you link to also lead to more information.

It’s okay to give your readers even more to read on your topic, as long as it’s a link to more credible information. This is especially helpful if you tend to go overboard on word count (you love explaining things, it’s okay, we understand) when trying to include too much detailed information in one piece.

So what doesn’t count?

  • Stuff from blogs
  • Testimonials and customer reviews
  • Random websites
  • Wikis (anyone can post content)

Just because one person or web page says it’s true doesn’t mean it is. So even if you use these places to get a general idea of what peoples’ opinions are on a particular subject or to generate ideas or angles for your work, don’t cite them as sources.

Stick to solid research, fact-check (look for those same facts in different places) and whatever you do, do not use Wikipedia as a primary source. Please.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

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