Question your sources
Questioning your sources is a key component of critical thinking, because not all sources of information are equally credible, accurate or relevant. Questioning and examining your sources will allow you to:
- eliminate irrelevant or erroneous sources
- select sources that are relevant and reliable
- sharpen the focus of your critical inquiry
- get a better understanding of current knowledge and debates relevant to your topic
- prepare the ground for analysing and evaluating sources
Questioning your sources is especially important when you are using web search algorithms, which do not distinguish between what is reliable, unreliable or fake.
At university, you will be encouraged to use academic sources, which have been reviewed by experts before they have been published. This ensures a rigour to the claims made in published academic sources. To learn more about academic sources and about where to find them, consult the library search guide and other useful guides.
The following questions will help you decide which sources are reliable and relevant to your task.
Remember that experts on a subject do not always agree with one another, because complex problems lead to different approaches, methodologies and solutions. Academic debates usually consider a range of different arguments and offer a reasoned answer or synthesis.
When you question your sources, you therefore do not need to agree with the authors’ points of view. What you do need to do is to ensure that the sources offer something of value and that they are relevant, so that you can analyse and evaluate them, and create your own answer or synthesis of ideas.