Determining credibility involves investigation, critical judgment, and reflection.
It is especially time-consuming when you are researching a topic that you have not yet read much about.
The more you read about a topic and come to know who trusted authors and institutions are within a field, the less time it will take you to assess credibility.
The following questions are meant to start you off with your assessment.
(1) AUTHORITY - all about who wrote it and if you trust them.
You need to determine whether the person who wrote something is qualified to write about the subject, and if you trust that person's authority.
Some questions to guide you as you look for information to help you make this decision:
WHO wrote this?
WHERE was it published?
Examples: a newspaper, an academic journal, a website belonging to: a for-profit business, a university, a non-profit organization, a religious organization, or a government agency.
What kind of knowledge or experience do they have about this topic?
People gain authority in different ways. Individuals may have:
What is their point of view?
Why did they write it?
(2) CREDIBILITY OF ARGUMENT - Does what they're saying make sense?
They should back up any argument with evidence - where is that evidence from? Some questions to guide you as you assess the credibility of the argument:
If they’re trying to convince us of something, what kinds of arguments do they use?
Where did they get their information? (do they even tell us?)
Are they fair to opposing views?
Which approach would be more convincing to you?
Conspiracy theories have become very common. They provide simplistic explanations, usually blaming one group of people acting with bad intentions -- "the truth They don't want you to know!" "the real reason They caused X problem".
Conspiracy theorists try to sound authentic and like to make videos that appeal to the emotions, but look closely at their claims and then compare to the de-bunking arguments of scientists, historians, engineers, and others who have serious and rigorous training.
Although it is tempting to believe conspiracy theories, because they can make you feel like you've discovered a hidden truth, they are more like rumors and urban myths that spread quickly from person to person but do not stand up to evidence.
Below is a short interview from National Public Radio (NPR) with a psychology professor on why people are drawn to conspiracy theories.