Your views on 'What makes a source (of information) reliable'?

Critical Thinker

Senior Member.
From the posting guidelines:

Back it up - with links and quotes from reliable source.

This is intended as a 'Meta-level' discussion focused on getting the input/viewpoints of others as to: What makes a source (of information) reliable?

When Googling that phrase there are hundred's of millions of results from various sources, most prominently are the educational institutions and journalism related websites that for the most part concur on certain basics. We can all read those and likely agree on most of the criteria, however it would be interesting to get people's (subjective) input on why they might find some sources reliable versus other sources that they think are unreliable. Ideally it would be interesting if folks would also share how they might classify themselves (ie... Debunker, Conspiracy Theorist, Liberal, Conservative, College Graduate, High School dropout, etc... ).


any thing or place from which something comes, arises, or is obtained; origin:


Critical Thinker

Senior Member.
I would classify myself as a Debunker, a Liberal (open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values), College Grad in the Sciences.

Whether the source is a website, person, News outlet, etc... I consider the track record they have in being factual and how they address any instances where they had been in error. Some friends I trust as a source more than others, based on that criteria. The same holds for websites and News outlets. People make mistakes and errors from time to time, but how often errors are made and if they readily admit to and address those errors has a great bearing on how much I trust the source. I like Metabunk as a source because when there is a factual error, it gets addressed by the membership, and generally speaking the reasons for the correction and citations are provided to back up the claim.
From the posting guidelines:

This is intended as a 'Meta-level' discussion focused on getting the input/viewpoints of others as to: What makes a source (of information) reliable?

That's a seriously subjective question, methinks! Personally, there are two aspects which I consider when reviewing the source of information -- filtering and bias. "Filtering" has been around since there was news, it's called "editing". Editors make decisions every day as to which story will run or not, and what information within the story is shared or not. In the days of print media, space was a factor, as well as the usual economic (for the newspaper) ones (i.e., advertising -- will this story help or hurt our advertising revenue). Physical space to run a story is not so much a factor nowadays (although you can question the overall placement of a story on the website), so a question I ask is whether or not a source is consistently filtering based on some agenda other than economics of space-to-print the story? That leads to second factor -- bias. That bias may come from both the source (i.e., filtering, editorial policy, etc.) as well as from the reader (confirmation bias, i.e., that a source is "reliable" because it is reporting information that fits into my expectations and worldview). With the internet today, I also look at circular news. Are sites that espouse the same position giving each other credit for posting something?


Senior Member.
debunker, college degree, liberal right.
Top university peer reviewed papers, and non-partisan statistical reviews.

I look at the web-addresses in top google search sometimes they are spurious.
.....even in Google Scholar

but I still want to see another viewpoint......even if I'm likely not to agree (pre-judge)

so yes, I screen Google results.
Last edited:

Mick West

Staff member

When I wrote that I was thinking of Wikipedia's usage of the term, like in:

Brian Wood

New Member
A source is an aggregation of information. The New York Times for example is a source. What makes it reliable or not has to do with the general reliability of the individual sources contained within. It isn't a very deep question if you think about it. An organization considered to be a source is already defined by its contributors, and what they have in common.

What counts in considering any writer, or group of writers, as credible is the setting on your BS detector. For instance, when a writer is trying to convince you of something by claiming to be scientific, you can disregard what they say if the information is conveyed as "proved" by science. An educated person knows science hasn't anything to do with proving things. Another important indicator is if the information in question is written from a defensive point of view, again often using science, but in this case suggesting that "mainstream science" won't touch the information because of such things as fear of loss of government funding, or the government is trying to prevent mass panic, or there is a corporate conspiracy to suppress the information that could undermine their ways of doing business, or big pharma is suppressing the information for some reason.

Good science, and therefore good information analysis in general, makes room for its own refutation. Sources of good information allow that it is openly falsifiable, willingly falsifiable, asking to be disproved if it can be. Sources of information that present themselves otherwise are suspect.

Political reporting, where objective "facts" are less certain, is necessarily skewed by the biases of the writer. But a good writer knows this and makes an attempt to frame her opinions in a large enough context that the reader has room to make their own judgements.

In short, a good source of information aims to inform, not indoctrinate. One can learn to recognize that.

David Fraser

Senior Member.
When I wrote that I was thinking of Wikipedia's usage of the term, like in:
I notice that Wikipedia has decided to class the Daily Mail as unreliable


Senior Member.
When I was studying journalism we had it drummed into us that where ever possible only relay on primary sources. EG if a local councillor says x, or a scientist says y, then you can only know for certain it's true if - a) you get the information direct from the horses mouth and b) there is evidence to back up what they are saying (raw data, etc). Every other form of information should be considered at least secondary.

Any journalist, in any media passing that information on to the consumers (readers, viewers, listeners etc) will automatically become a secondary (or whatever) source themselves. Therefore a good journalist will always refer to his primary sources in their passing on that same information, so that what is presented can be challenged and / or verified by those further down the information.

Sadly these days, in many cases the journalist doesn't always, by neglect or design, make his sources all that clear, and many consumers of information are too damned lazy to check or at least enquire as the validity of those sources.


New Member
I don't believe in labels or even taxonomies Still I guess I'd describe myself as a self educated metaphysician.

I believe that ultimately we are all wrong and where we appear to be right we take that stance for the wrong reasons with bad or irrelevant information. Sources can only be judged on their internal consistency. News sources, the media, always have axes to grind and lack internal consistency.

Really we shouldn't take even the highest quality sources as gospel since even writers who can pen internally consistent material are frequently wrong from many perspectives.

This lack of good sources for everything from recipes to politics to science exists largely because we lack a proper language in which to express statements that are true after each individual deconstructs them in a unique way. We don't recognize the limitations of language or science because language and beliefs fosters a perspective from which we always see what we already believe. We play "Chinese telephone" as children and never factor this into our thinking again.

Most of what's called "news" in the US is just invented to push some belief of the relatively few who make it up. "Events" rarely happen as they are portrayed and even when they did the "story" was selected not because it's "news" but because it furthers an agenda. Suddenly TV anchormen are using the exact same bad grammar and mispronunciations all over the country because they make no attempt to hide it. "There is traffic jams in Beijenj" doesn't mean this is important or that China is having trouble with infrastructure nor does it mean they changed how verbs are used in sentences. It means they changed the way Americans are supposed to pronounce "Peking" again this week. It's not news, it's not real, and it's not internally consistent.


Senior Member.
Here is a Harvard link, explaining how, why, and when to use "Sources", for college essays, research, or papers....

(small excerpt.....see whole page)
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