Research Paper Help: How to Check Reliability of Sources

Here’s some research paper help: How to check reliability of sources.

Research Paper Help: How to Check Reliability of Sources

Research Paper Help: How to Check Reliability of Sources

MLA research paper writing guide

Every year in homeschool high school, teens need to write a research paper. There are several different styles to choose from including APA research papers, Chicago-style and MLA research papers. ( has writing guides for all three styles and a freebie guide for absolute novices.)

One of the big issues teens deal with is how to know whether the sources they are using are valid. Our 7Sister, Allison, wrote our MLA paper writing guide as well as teaching our local MLA paper homeschool group classes. Allison has a BRILLIANT acrostic that she uses to help her homeschool high schoolers choose good sources! It is called *SCAM*.

SCRUTINIZE the web address.

Domain names (suffix) can indicate the type of organization.

  • Generally good choices: edu (educational institution), mil (military), gov (US government), org (non profit organization)
  • Use with caution:  .com, .net

CHECK the website Home and “About Us” pages.

  • What is the organization and who are the contributors?  Do they have credentials in the subject you are researching? 
  • Do you notice an “advertisey” feel to the website, indicating that it is not objective and fact based.

AVOID sites that compile many contributors’ writing like:, Wikipedia,
MEET the author.

  • If an author is mentioned, does he/she have credentials in the field, listed on the website? 
  • Google the author’s name to see if others refer to his/her work. 
  • Does the article cite or refer to its sources?  If so, are they reliable based on the rest of the criteria?

APA Style Research Paper Writing Guide

Remember, everyone has a certain degree of bias (their own presuppositions and perspective on a topic).  As a result, ALWAYS look at your source material critically, recognizing that even a learned scholar may be presenting facts incompletely or slanting them.  You need a variety of sources to get a clear picture of reality. 

Download Chicago-Style Research Paper,  MLA Research Paper Writing Guide,or the APA Research Paper Writing Guide for no-busywork, step-by-step guidance through the high school research paper.

Chicago Style Research Paper

Also check out these posts for more high school research paper help:

Choosing a topic for an APA paper

Choosing a topic for an MLA paper

Which style paper should you choose?

What’s the difference between APA and MLA papers?

Writing a great MLA paper thesis statement

Want to learn more about teaching the skills necessary to write a research paper? This interview with Kat Patrick offers many ideas.

Freedom Homeschooling has a list of free reference and tools for writers. 

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Research Paper Help: How to Check Reliability of Sources



Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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