To be credible and trustworthy, information must:
- Utilize information from trustworthy sources
- Make it possible for readers to review those sources independently
Identifying Trustworthy Online Sources
To provide the best information possible, only reference experts who have clear, verifiable credentials with regard to the subject at hand.
Possible credentials include degrees, certifications, experiences, geographic locations, occupations, and unique positions. The identity of the subject and the authenticity of his or her credentials must be verified in accordance with the our Source Verifications Standards.
Examples of Trustworthy Individuals:
- A Professor of Neurology at Stanford University (used as a source of information about neurology, being a professor, or any research she herself is doing)
- A stay-at-home dad (used as a source of information about the life and challenges of a full-time parent)
Examples of Individuals Who Could Not Be Considered Trustworthy:
- A Professor of Neurology at Stanford University (used as a source of information about parenting, should she not be a mother)
- A stay-at-home dad (used as a source of information about neurology, should he not have proven credentials in the field)
- Any self-declared “Expert” on a particular subject with no verifiable credentials
To provide our audiences with accurate information, only reference websites that can be considered trustworthy.
Trustworthy online sources include:
- Government websites (.gov)
- Educational institutions’ websites (.edu)*
- Major information, media, and news outlets (that employ editors and fact checkers)
- Work found through online scholarly databases or well-known research organizations
Online-only media organizations (e.g. major blogs) with more than 10 million monthly views may be cited only with regard to quotes from experts they reference if those experts meet the criteria for trustworthy individuals (and should be cited sparingly; it is better to go to the source directly).
Websites belonging to business and organizations may also be cited with regard to company policy and information, but not with regard to information about subjects on which the business or organization cannot be considered a trustworthy expert. For example, it is permissible to cite a diet company’s site for a description of its particular regimen, but not for information about health and weight loss, as information presented from the site is likely to be biased.
User-generated content platforms (ranging from blogs to social media sites and wikis) do not count as trustworthy sources; user-generated content must meet our Source Verification Standards and its creator(s) must qualify as trustworthy individual(s) if that content is to be referenced.
Examples of trustworthy sites that can be cited directly:
Examples of scholarly databases and research organizations through work can be cited:
Examples of sites for which only trusted individuals can be cited:
Examples of user-generated content sites through which one must find the original source and adhere to Source Verification Standards :
Information from an external online source must be paired with a reference to that source and a link back to it. A link to a website’s main page is insufficient; links to sources must lead to the source material (e.g. the article, study, interview, etc.) itself.
When using information from an offline source, still cite it, and, when possible, provide links to specific book listings or websites should be provided.
Clearly describe information found through primary research (e.g. if you run a survey and share your results and analysis, also share information on the survey’s design, sample size, and response rate).
When presenting information through images and infographics, cite your sources, along with URLs, within the image.
When utilizing external information in videos, name your sources within the video and provide information (both title and URL or source information) in those videos’ credits or as overlays.
While different citation formats are a matter of taste and specific formats (e.g. informal, MLA, or APA) are up to the individual content creator, always, at minimum, name and link to the sources you reference.
The links and URLs you provide should lead to the specific article or page referenced, not the main page of an entire website. Though hyperlinked names of sources are sufficient for citation, you should provide the full URL of the source when hyperlinked text is not an option.
Present citations to text-based sources within the body of an online post or article or at its end in a “Sources” section.
An example of a citation presented within the body of an article would be: According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, the U.S. birthrate fell eight percent from 2007 to 2010.
Reference citations presented at the end of a post, page, or article within its body via parenthetical citations or footnotes.
Text Citations within Audio Recordings, Videos, or Images
Because videos, audio, and images can be separated from page on which you initially present them (videos may be embedded elsewhere, images may be used in others’ blog posts, and audio might be distributed via a wide variety of channels), you must include citation information within the content itself.
Citations within audio content should be verbally delivered and include everything listeners would need to easily access a source themselves. If you do not want to spell out a very long URL, create a shortened URL using Bitly or Goo.gl.
Citations within video content may be verbally delivered or presented visually as text. This text may be presented as a caption that appears while the subject is being referenced or as a visual bumper (i.e. text overlay or a visual list) showing collective works cited at the end of the video.
Citations for images (such as infographics) should be presented within the images themselves. Citations may be placed immediately next to the content that references a given source or included as a list in a “Works Cited” or “Sources” section at the bottom of the image.
Image, Audio, Video, and Other Media Citations
Use non-text media in accordance with the our Copyright Standards (in other words, you must have the legal right to use media from external sources).
In written online content, provide linked source information in a caption right under or next to externally-sourced media. When this is not possible, name and link to the source at the bottom of the page.
Cite sources and URLs of media used in videos, audio recordings, and images within the videos, recordings, or images themselves.
*Note: Blogs on .edu sites that are run by students do not count as trustworthy sources by default; authors of blog posts must themselves meet the standards for trustworthy individual sources.
**Though Wikipedia serves as a great jumping off point, it cannot itself be cited with regard to assertion of concrete facts. Refer to article reference sections to find original sources.