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Credibility Continuum

With so much information readily available, how do you know what sources to trust? Use this guide to help determine the credibility of various information sources.


Popular periodicals contain articles that reflect the tastes of the general public and are meant to entertain the reader and sell the products of their advertisers. Some popular periodicals, such as Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone, may contain more in-depth articles that fall into the "Substantive News" category.

Identifying Popular Sources

  • Content: Original reporting on topics of interest to the general public, or secondary discussion of someone else's research. Articles are shorter than scholarly journal articles. 
  • Author(s): Author(s) are journalists writing as a career; they are paid for their content. Generally not experts in subject field, but may be members of the editorial staff, or free lance writers.
  • Credibility: Author's credentials are usually not provided.
  • Audience:  Geared for a general audience. 
  • Language: Written with commonly understandable vocabulary. Most people will easily understand the article.
  • References: Not likely found.  Popular articles usually don't have a long list of citations at the end of the paper, but they always name their sources (e.g., "according to U.S. Census data"), and quote their sources by name.