Finding information has never been easier, but the proliferation of information means that a lot of what you find easily isn't very good. While evaluating information is discussed below, one easy step you can take to eliminate the least useful sources is to start your search in library databases. You will be searching articles that have at least passed through a publishing process, so you can move on to more sophisticated evaluation. Most topics will be at least reasonably covered in the EBSCO databases. CQ Researcher is more limited in coverage but the articles are in-depth.
Credibility is not a yes/no determination; there is no checklist that will tell you definitively if a source is or is not credible. It's an evaluation you and your audience make by weighing several factors including:
Academic or Scholarly
Written by experts and reviewed by peers (other experts in the field), these articles follow an academic format with an abstract and references.
Trade or Professional
Written by experts or by writers speaking to experts in a field, these have a popular format but are aimed at a limited audience of others in the same field.
Popular (magazines, newspapers)
Another word for these publications is "periodical," and they are aimed at a general audience. These articles can be thoroughly researched and evaluated by editors and sometimes fact-checkers, or they can be hastily and poorly written to drive advertising revenue.
A strong argument must acknowledge and address common counterpoints, otherwise you will leave your audience wondering "what about x?" Rather than rejecting evidence that doesn't support your conclusions, you should seek it out. The following resources intentionally include many viewpoints on commonly researched controversial issues and can be a great place to find your opposing sources.
Citing your sources is an important part of informing or convincing your audience. Following a particular citation style helps to make where you found your information very clear. Always check your assignment and syllabus for your instructor's directions, but in general you will be asked to use either APA or MLA style in your written work and a less formal mention in your speeches.
A citation includes all the information a reader will need to locate that work, but styles differ in their order of information, use of abbreviations, and style elements like capitalization, punctuation, and use of italics. Different disciplines have developed different styles -- APA is used in science and social science disciplines, and MLA is used in the humanities.
Be aware that advertising revenue accounts for the majority of Google's earnings. Your search results are likely to include ads (denoted by the word "Ad" in front of the URL), and sometimes a number of the top results are ads. And remember that Google is always changing, with search tools being added or discontinued.
URLs include a domain extension. Common domains include .com, .edu, .org, and .gov. It can be useful to limit your results by domain. Enter your search term in the search box and add a limiter - "site:.gov" or "site:.edu".
These appear in the bar at the top of your results page, just under the search box. You can check the News tab for recent stories, but be careful to evaluate the source. With the Tools filter, you can limit by time frame. (Go to "Custom range" at the bottom to enter a multi-year period.)
Put quotation marks around multi-word phrases to exclude results where all the words appear on the page but are unrelated.
Use the minus sign (-) to exclude words you don't want to appear in your results.
Check out Advanced Search for more options.