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WRIT 1133 - Relevance and Perspective of Secondary Sources: Determining Relevance

Relevance and Credibility of Sources

What is the difference between relevance and credibility/validity, when it comes to the secondary sources you will use for your projects?

Relevance is more straightforward:

  • Does the source connect to your topic?
  • Does it contribute to your argument or provide a contrasting perspective that you must respond to in order to demonstrate you understand the complexity of your topic? 

Credibility, or validity, is more complex and can involve several factors:

  • Who is the author and what evidence can you find that they have the authority to discuss the topic?
    • This can be tricky sometimes, because authors may write on topics that are related to their fields, but which may not seem directly connected.
  • What can you find out about the publisher or publication, whether it is a book, scholarly article, newspaper article, or blog post?
  • Is the date important? 
    • This could also fall under relevance, if, for example, your professor requires sources from the last 10 years.
  • Other types of criteria to consider when examining the source in more depth include objectivity, purpose, or audience.

Determining Relevance

In evaluating sources for relevance and credibility, generally start with relevance:

    • What types of publications will your professor accept for the project?
      • Publication type
      • Intended audience
    • Read title and abstract, if one available
    • Examine subjects or keywords assigned to the source
    • Skim content and/or opening and closing paragraphs
  • If seems relevant, then next step is determining credibility before delving in more deeply