Sources: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - Graduate Writing Center

Nested Applications
Sources: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Sources: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Ever scrolled through headlines and noticed sensationalism? Do you have a few news sources that you trust more than others? Do you read Wikipedia articles when you want to find out the basics of something (like most of us)?

As you know from your experience consuming media in everyday life, not all sources of information are equal. Generally, the more rigorous the editing process a publication goes through, the more reliable it is likely to be:

  • The average Facebook post or tweet, for example, is written by just one person; for most academic purposes, such sources of information would therefore be lowest on the reliability scale.
  • Likewise, while Wikipedia is great for finding basic knowledge, in most cases, the information has not been peer-reviewed or edited by experts, so its accuracy has not been verified. (Tip on Wikipedia, though: more and more of the entries contain footnotes, which can be great to find further information in more reliable sources!)
  • By contrast, a book published by an academic press is screened by many specialists in the field and is likely to be much more reliable.

Here's a more extensive list of some standard sources, in order of least to most likely to be reliable: 

  • Tweets / Facebook post (least reliable: written by one person or a bot and immediately publishable)
  • Blog entry (usually longer than a social media post; you can generally find out more about the writer's credentials)
  • Info from a dot com website (remember, dot coms are inherently selling something)
  • Newspaper article (online or print; remember, newspapers are also trying to sell themselves)
  • Magazine article (similar to newspaper articles, though magazines tend to publish less frequently, giving more time for editing)
  • Info from a dot org site (usually not trying to sell anything, but still, check source credentials)
  • Info from a dot edu site or dot gov site (usually more reliable than a dot com site)
  • Journal article (peer-reviewed journal articles are vetted by experts in the field)
  • Book published by an academic press (goes through an extensive editorial process)

There are many characteristics to consider when evaluating the quality of a source; to review key concepts, please revisit the Foundations of Academic Writing presentation, "How to Look and Be Smart."

Finally, pro tip: sometimes, people hesitate to use Google Scholar (or regular Google) because they think the sources won't be academic enough. That's just silly; just use discernment.
 

Evaluating Sources Links

 

GWC - all topics list heading

All-Topics Index


The following index makes searching for a specific topic easier and links to the appropriate place in the sequenced material. We think we have most of them, but please email us at writingcenter@nps.edu if we are missing something!

A-Z content menu

A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z

A

abbreviations

abstracts

academic writing

acronyms

active voice

advisor, selecting and working with

apostrophes

appointment with GWC coaches, how to schedule

argument

article usage

assignments, understanding them

audience

return to top 

B

body paragraphs

brackets, square

brainstorming

building better sentences tips

return to top 

C

capitalization

citations

citation software

citation styles

clauses

clarity

clustering

coaching, about

coaching, how to schedule

colons

comma splices

commas, FANBOYS

commas, introductory

commas, list

commas, nonessential / nonrestrictive information

commas, Oxford

commas, serial

commonly confused words 

compare-and-contrast papers 

concision

conclusions

conjunctive adverbs

coordinating conjunctions

copyright and fair use

critical thinking  

return to top 

D

dangling modifiers

dashes

dependent clauses

dependent marker words

display equations

double submission of coursework

drafting

return to top 

E

editing your own work

editing: outside editors

em dash

en dash

exclamation points

executive summary

return to top 

F

FANBOYS

FAQs

first person, use of in academic writing

footnotes

fragments

free-writing

return to top 

G

gerunds

grammar

group writing

GWC appointment, how to schedule

return to top 

H

homophones

hyphens

return to top 

I

ibid.

incomplete sentences

independent clauses

introductions

return to top 

J

Joining the Academic Conversation

return to top 

L

LaTeX

library liaisons

lists, syntax of

literature reviews 

logic and analysis 

return to top 

M

making a GWC appointment

mathematics

memos

methodologies

misplaced modifiers

return to top 

N

nominalizations

note-taking

noun clusters

numbers

return to top 

O

organization

outlining

Oxford comma

return to top 

P

paragraph development 

parallelism

paraphrasing

parentheses

parts of speech

passive voice

periods

persuasion

phrases vs. clauses

plagiarism, how to avoid through citations

plain language

polishing

prepositional phrases 

prepositions

pronouns

publishing

punctuation

purpose of research

return to top 

Q

questions

quotation marks 

quoting

return to top 

R

reading with intent

redundancies                                                                

reference software

reflection papers 

research

research questions

reusing papers

reverse outlining

revision

roadmaps                                            

run-on sentences 

return to top 

S

scheduling a GWC appointment

self-citing

semicolons

sentence fragments

serial comma

signal phrases

significance

so what?

sources, engaging with / critiquing

sources, evaluating the reliability of

sources, citing

spelling

standard essay structure

STEM / technical writing 

style

subject–verb agreement

subjects, grammatical

subordinating conjunctions

summarizing

return to top 

T

technical writing

that vs. which

thesis writing

thesis advisor, selecting and working with

thesis process overview

thesis process tips

thesis proposals – common elements                                                     

thesis statements

this, that, these, those

tone, professional

topic sentences 

transitions

types of papers

return to top 

U

United States or U.S.?

return to top 

V

verbs and verb tense

return to top 

W

which vs. that

Why write?

writer’s block 

writing process

return to top 

Z

Zotero

return to top