What makes a good source?

Source Reliability

Checking the reliability of a source is a real critical thinking challenge.

It is very important that you take a critical look at all sources, especially when they come from companies’ websites or small newspapers, to avoid greenwashing and misinformation.

It breaks down into 6 pillars, with questions that you should ask yourself when assessing the source.

Ready to shift to critical thinking mode? Here are the 6 pillars:

Currency: is this information up to date?

As a rule of thumb, we always prefer recent data, up to a year or two maximum prior to publication. This is even more important for impact related to the company’s practices and products.

For instance, an analysis on waste diversion should look at the data from the company’s most recent report.

If the impact you examine happened several years ago but the evidence was only established recently (for instance, when a clear ruling has established the misdoings of a company 15 years ago), we can accept older sources.

Relevance: is this information useful to my analysis?

  • Does the information relate to your topic?

  • Does it directly support your analysis?

  • Who is the intended audience?

  • Is it using an appropriate information level (too elementary/too complex)?

Authority: can the author be trusted?

  • Who is the author/sponsor/source/published?

  • What are the author’s credentials?

  • What qualifies the author to write this information?

  • Is there contact information?

  • Does the URL reveal authorship?

Accuracy: is the content correct, reliable, and objective?

  • Where does the information come from?

  • Is it supported by evidence?

  • Has it been revised?

  • Is it similar to other information?

  • Bias-free? Emotion-free and nuanced?

  • Are there spelling or grammatical errors?

  • Is it overly subjective?

  • Does it stick to facts or includes an opinion piece?

Purpose: why does this information exist?

  • What is the purpose of this information?

  • Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?

  • Is the point of view objective and impartial?

  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?




Videos are accepted as a source, as long as they come from reliable sources.

Sources

1. Blakeslee, Sarah (2004). "The CRAAP Test". LOEX Quarterly. 31 (3).

2. Fielding, Jennifer A. (December 2019). "Rethinking CRAAP: Getting students thinking like fact-checkers in evaluating web sources". C&RL News. 80 (11): 620–622.

What about the language of the source?

We accept any sources which can be read in English. 

This means that you can add non-English sources, provided they can be translated into English. Here is the how-to guide:

  • Open this link: http://itools.com/tool/google-...
  • Add the URL of the web page you would like to translate.
  • Make sure to select the correct recipient language, "From", (e.g. Spanish, Mandarin, Hindu…) and pick English as the target language, "To".
  • The translated source will appear in a new window (example). Use the URL of this new window to add to your analysis.

    Caution:
  • Reviewers retain the right to refuse non-English sources if the translation is not appropriate.
  • This translation tool only accepts web pages, not PDFs.
  • How "open" does a source have to be?

    We only accept open sources in impact analyses. What does this mean?

    Sources need to be freely accessible without any restrictions. The reason is that readers and raters need to be able to read any sources documented in the analysis and confirm the cited information. 


    Many sources are open-sourced, such as Wikipedia, certain online newspapers like the Guardian, and data providers. However, some sites are not freely accessible, like The Financial Times. You need to pay to access their articles, so we do not accept them. Finally, some sites are semi-open: visitors get limited access (think Statista) or only up to a certain amount of visits (for example, the CDP). These sites can be accepted if the information is viewable by everyone; otherwise, they might be rejected. The decisions remain on Reviewers, depending on the situation. 

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