Define What Makes a Source Relevant

Posted on April 05, 2017

Define What Makes a Source Relevant

QUESTION: What are the characteristics of a strong source?

ANSWER: The literacy standards state that students should gather information from "relevant" sources. This requires explicit instruction. In particular, students need a concrete definition of the qualities that make a source relevant. Here are three basic criteria:

  1. The source must be credible. It is verifiable. Other sources corroborate the information from this source. Other texts include similar information. If the source is a person, then other authors reference that person as an authority, validating his expertise.
  2. The source must also be accurate. More than just making sure the information is not false, it must be completely true. It's not misleading or omitting anything. Part of accuracy is also assessing if the information is timely. The source has to be current--not outdated.
  3. The third criterion is that the source is relevant. The information addresses the thesis statement and/or answers the research question. Keep in mind, a source might be credible and accurate in its information, but if the information isn't about the topic, then it's irrelevant.

When introducing students to the characteristics of a strong source, present the C.A.R. acronym. It's C-Credible, A-Accurate, and R-Relevant. The source must meet all three of these facets, making the C.A.R. acronym the perfect litmus test for source credibility.

Characteristics of strong sources of information