Please Use Credible Sources: Entitled to Our Own Opinion, But Not Our Own Facts

Credible Sources

Dr. David Childs, D.D., Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University


Does living in a democratic society where everyone has a voice entitle us to our own facts? Of course not. With the pandemic worsening and becoming more contagious as a result of the Delta Variant and enough people not taking it seriously it is ever more important for us to get the facts right. I recently read a quote on social media by an unknown author that stated, “polio and smallpox never reached herd immunity, they were eradicated by vaccines.” Perhaps this sheds light on the strength of well-researched scientific findings. But even with this information many people in the US are not convinced that scientific knowledge is reliable.

Hunt for Credible Sources
A January 2021 Democracy and Me article entitled “The Hunt for Credible Sources: Recovering from the Pandemic of Fake News” discusses the dangers of misinformation and not having valid sources to support findings. The article states, “anyone that spends any reasonable amount of time on Facebook or other social media outlets would notice that there is an abundance of websites that offer false information. In a recent search on information about the past election I came across countless articles citing false information, many which relied on wild conspiracy theories including QAnon, voter fraud theories and perhaps worst of all, the belief that COVID-19 is a hoax.” A more recent stream of false information now acknowledges that the coronavirus is real but that masks do not work, and the vaccine is dangerous. It is of the utmost importance that students and society in general can adequately differentiate between valid and invalid sources. If we do not have reliable information, it can lead us to make uninformed decisions that can adversely affect every aspect of our lives; indeed, disinformation can impact us politically, socially and economically. If people get information wrong as it relates to the pandemic it can have dire effects on our civilization. 

What Makes Valid Research
A 2019 Democracy and Me article entitled “What Makes Valid Research? How to Verify if a Source is Credible on the Internet” further elaborates on the topic of the importance of valid sources.

“Computer and digital technology have increased at an astounding rate within the last several decades. With the advent of various informational Internet resources such as social media, online articles, books and so forth many people purport to do thorough research but lack the understanding of what research means. The advent of search engines has given everyone the illusion that they have done research and are experts on a particular topic. In reality, people simply pull information from unreliable sources, thinking that they have researched a topic thoroughly. What makes a source not reliable? What makes certain information unreliable and untrustworthy?

What is research?
Research should involve a thorough reading and analysis of an adequate number of sources on a given subject. One does not have to have a college degree to do research. But the proper time should be devoted in order to draw valid conclusions that can be held up as reliable research. As a side note, some information cannot be obtained without proper research methodologies and even research tools. Examples of this is research in the natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, or physics, or in the social sciences in areas such as history, economics or sociology. With the hard sciences one must conduct countless experiments to arrive at certain conclusions that cannot be obtained by simply reading a lot of Internet articles and watching videos. Furthermore, to do valid historical work one must study many reliable primary sources or conduct countless interviews with people who were present during a certain time period the historian is studying. So, in this way, valid natural or social science experiments cannot be replaced by reading a few articles on the Internet. At the very least, one can read the work of experts who have devoted their life to research in a particular subject. There is no shortcut for conducting research on a topic thoroughly and adequately.”

The current debate over masks and vaccines has to do with many people’s lack of trust in science and well-established institutions. However, the implications for those opinions and even decisions can be fatal. That is, if the delta variant continues to spread, lives will continue to be lost. And I think we can all agree that this is a steep price to pay, simply to hold on to our opinion. A price none of us want to pay. 


  1. I initially chose this article for this week’s reading response because the phrase “entitled to our own opinion, but not our own facts” stood out as particularly poignant to me. In recent memory, there has been an explosion of arguments being made in the public sphere that are not based in any sort of credible facts or knowledge but rather, are just what someone feels like saying about how they feel. This phenomenon has always bothered me because one would think that basing a belief on a given fact of principle is just a standard accepted fact of life. It is concerning that it is becoming more and more acceptable to just say whatever you want without having to back up why you reached the conclusion you did. This to me shows an need on the part of educators and educational institutions as a whole to underscore the importance of credibility in various settings such as academic writing and just in a broad sense.

  2. Until I started taking classes in college, I never knew how important it was to have credible sources for research or writing papers. Not having credible information, practically makes the research invalid and can’t be trusted in a way. Websites can become very easy to access and have the information changed on it which becomes false advice that is being used for people’s research papers. Although our own opinions can be used as facts, they still must come from somewhere reliable. This article was very informative about research being done thoroughly.

  3. This article will relate to me in college because I will need to learn how to research correctly. I need to make sure I am making credible choices in my research. It was a good point to mention that you need to spend a good amount of time in your research.

  4. Having access to the internet has its pros and cons. A big con is that misinformation can be spread. I’ve seen many posts on the internet about information regarding covid that was hearsay or didn’t provide a source. So, people shouldn’t readily believe that information and should start conducting their own research about covid by using reliable sources.

  5. I think that people should not blindly follow misleading information to support their bias. I also think that schools should educate students on how to find credible resources.

  6. This article introduces some key concerns when talking about research today and where people get their information from. It seems that most of the time research is half done, with students just looking up their topics and writing brief quotes from whatever article they happen to pull up. This can lead to individuals using articles that are not verified, or taking pieces out of context. While I think it is good to educate yourself as much as you can on topics, it is also good to listen to scientists and other professionals that have more experience than you.

  7. Finding credible sources can be tricky if you are not looking on correct, verified websites. Because the internet is used so widely in today’s world, there are a lot of fraudulent and non-credible resources that can relay invalid information. With this, it can spread false thoughts, opinions and what people would think are “facts” to go around like wild fire, especially in terms of social media and other outlets.

  8. This article was relatable to me because in my high school English classes the teachers greatly stressed the importance of using valid sources for research. There are plenty of ways to find credible sources and by ensuring you look at more than one article for information can help determine what is real or not. Some great places to find valid information are places like websites with .gov because there are government websites.

  9. When reflecting on their time in high school, many would remember learning about finding sources that were reliable. One way was to search using google scholar. Another memorable tip was to avoid Wikipedia. This article discuss this importance of being aware of uncredible sources when researching about the recent pandemic. This is incredibly important, especially when it affects you and your family’s health. In this case health care websites may be a good place to start.

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