Finding information online is easy. Unfortunately, that information isn’t always entirely accurate. Relying on bad data or quoting an incorrect statistic can hurt your credibility, so how do you find authoritative sources that provide accurate info?

What’s an authoritative source?

Generally speaking, an authoritative source is a highly trusted and reliable place to collect information about a topic. There are 3 common types of authoritative sources:

  1. Archival Sources – publicly accessible databases and documents (for example, the census)
  2. Recognized Sources – recognized industry experts and professional publications (for SEO, the Think with Google blog)
  3. Peer-reviewed Sources – peer-review publications and journals (like Harvard Business Review)

So how do you find these trust sources? Here are 3 ways.

Finding an expert

When finding authoritative sources, an authority on the subject is probably your best place to start. There are many ways to find those sources, but one of the easiest is to look for recent news articles published about the subject. Find the expert that the writer quoted in the article (if the expert didn’t actually write the article), and work your way back to the original source. Quoting the news article isn’t good enough, because reporters can get information wrong, or they might misunderstand the context of the data.

Wikipedia? Google?

Never quote Wikipedia as a source. It cannot be considered authoritative since anyone can write or edit entries on Wikipedia at any time. You can, however, find sources in the references section of an entry. Beware, though, even those might not all be authoritative sources. Research is the key to finding the right sources for your articles.

Google is a great tool for finding information, but as with all research, be careful. The best results don’t always float to the top of the search engine.

Check the library

Speaking of research, you could head to your local library and find authoritative books on the subject. While some of the books you find might not be current, they could point you in the direction of a more recent source. Try to use recent sources over older ones. Older sources might not give you all the information you need.

If you live near a college or university, you could check the academic library and find journals related to the subject you are researching. Academic journals are great sources of recent information.

A great list for helping you know which kind of information to use over others can be found here.

Finding authoritative sources takes work, but it’s work that can be valuable to you. The more research you do on a subject, the more of an authority you’ll be. The more authoritative you are, the more likely a customer is to want to work with you again! Our customers are looking for high-quality content, and part of having great quality is having authoritative sources.


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