by Gino Perrotte
MA, Interpersonal Communication
What is credibility?
Trust and truthfulness. These are the foundation of any good relationship. This includes the relationship between those that create information and those that consume it. A credible person can be trusted. You can believe what he or she says is true.
Why should you evaluate the credibility of a source?
Of course not everyone is trustworthy or truthful. Whether it is intentional deceit or simply a lack of experience, there is incorrect or not-the-most-accurate information floating around. The internet has given us unparalleled access to a plethora of information at our fingertips. Because of the ease of information accessibility and the seemingly endless number of sources on the web, it is perhaps more essential than ever to evaluate the credibility of the sources of the information that we consume. Remember: Just because it is on the internet doesn’t mean it is true.
What is my credibility for discussing the topic of credibility?
Since I am encouraging you to be skeptical of information sources, let me present my knowledge and experience to you as evidence for my credibility on the topic.
As a university instructor for public speaking and a variety of other Human Communication courses, I teach students to be wise consumers of information. When writing a speech, it is essential that the speaker use credible sources to support information in the speech. We discuss how the digital age has given rise to a wealth of information and, because of this, the critical skill we must develop is evaluating which information to believe and which to discard. Using credible sources builds your own credibility and people learn that you can be trusted to provide accurate information.
As a Human Communication consultant, I help clients build credibility through personal branding. The way you communicate both verbally and nonverbally sends messages about whether or not you are trustworthy. Does your life and the story that you tell about it provide supporting evidence for who say you are? If so, this evidence builds personal credibility since it suggests that you are believable. Those who succeed at personal branding are able to accurately and consistently communicate who they are.
How do you assess the credibility of a source?
There are a number of elements you should consider when evaluating the credibility of a source. Adapted from the CRAAP Test*, I use the acronym VALUE as a helpful way to remember these elements. Evaluate whether or not a source is credible based on if it is:
V= Valid. Is the information accurate according to your own knowledge and/or other sources? Is there evidence to support what is presented? Is it factual and not simply opinion? Can you detect any biases? Are there inexcusable and excessive errors such as spelling, grammar, format, or broken web links that suggest a lack of important attention to detail? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, you should second-guess the credibility of this source.
A= Authoritative. Who created the information? Did you review their credentials? Do their credentials qualify them as experts on the subject? If the source of the information is web-based, is the website a .com, .org, .edu, or .gov? Which type of website might be the most credible for your topic? When considering authority, you are deciding whether or not the person has the knowledge and experience needed to be believable.
L= Linked to the topic. Is the information related to your topic? Out of all of the sources you are evaluating for use, is this one the best fit for your needs? Remember that you are using sources of information to build your own credibility. So you want to choose those that provide the highest quality of information for your topic.
U= Up-to-date. How old is the information? If it is recent, it this good? If it is dated, is this bad? Have there been any revisions? When deciding whether or not your source is outdated, consider what a variety of sources on the topic report and then choose the ones that make the most sense. Depending on your purpose, sometimes you want the most recent information and other times you want to reference historical findings.
E= Evident. Is the purpose of the information obvious? Is the intent to inform, persuade, self-promote, sell, or a bit of each? Could the author have a hidden agenda? Is only one side of an argument presented? An author’s reason for creating information has an influence on what and how it’s presented. Therefore, you should consider the author’s intention before you decide to accept the information.
Remember that credible sources have VALUE. Because of this, you should only use credible sources.
How can you present yourself as a credible source?
Since we have established the importance of credibility and learned how to evaluate a source, let’s consider how you can establish it for yourself.
Whether speaking or writing, make your topic VALUEable for your audience. Do this by telling them why your knowledge and experience makes you an authority on the topic. Use only credible sources for gathering your information and cite these sources. Make sure that the information that you use from other sources is related to your topic, accurate, and either up-to-date or historical (whichever best supports your purpose). Be transparent in your purpose so that your audience knows that you have goodwill towards them. Finally, be consistent in your verbal and nonverbal communication so that you are seen as trustworthy. Following these tips can help you build credibility as someone who provides information of VALUE.
*Eastern Michigan University Library. (n.d.). Evaluating Web Sites Using the CRAAP Test. Retrieved May 19, 2015, from http://www.emich.edu/library/help/craap/
Gino Perrotte is a university instructor for a variety of Human Communication courses including Public Speaking and Technical Presentations. His professional career is dedicated to communication coaching, consulting, and training. Learn more about Gino and the services he offers at www.rightbrainjourneys.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.