Credible Sources

So you’ve been asked to use sources to support your argument in an essay or an oral presentation. What makes a source “credible” or “academic”? How do you avoid using sources that are seen as being non-credible and potentially damaging to your argument?

The most visited page online that summarises the difference between a credible source and a non-credible sources is a PDF from the University Writing Center at Appalachian State University in the USA. As they say, a credible source is one that “a reader can trust”. It is also a source that brings credibility to your work as it shows that a reputable person or organisation supports what you have to say.

Basically, a credible source is usually either:

1. From a peer-reviewed journal, such as the ones you can access through Google Scholar or through the National Library of Australia if you have a library card.


2. From a source that has academic weight in the subject area you are writing or speaking about.

If you are uncertain as to whether or not a source is credible, ask your teacher before using it in your work.


There are a range of websites that are written for students that are not credible sources. These include SparkNotes, enotes, CliffsNotes, GradeSaver, LitNotes, Shmoop and NovelGuide.

As a rule, you should also avoid using Wikipedia as a source, though like the websites listed above, it is often a good place to start your research. In fact, a number of the sources that are cited on Wikipedia pages are often credible themselves.

Also, work by other students, such as YouTube videos that analyse a text or a Prezi that discusses the same topic that you are covering are not credible sources. If you are unsure, search for the name of the person who created the video or Prezi. If the author is Professor Smith from Harvard University, then they are a credible source as they have academic weight in their subject area. If the author is Terry Smith, but you don’t know if they are a Professor or a Year 10 student at the school down the road, then they are not a credible source.