Basic principles of source criticism

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Source criticism is a scientifically designed method for evaluating information and its authors. Regardless of whether it is literature, a blog, a research report or a radio spot, the basic principles are the same and can be used by journalists in their work.

Is the source really who/what it claims to be? Who is behind it? Do images show what they purport to show? Are documents referred to genuine? Is it a real person behind it, or might it be a so-called fake profile or robot? What is the intention of the source? Where and in what context was it published?

Is the information up-to-date or has something else happened? Is it a new source of information about something that happened a long time ago? Sources created contemporarily in relation to what is being discussed by the original source are considered more credible. Diary entries are considered more credible than memoirs, for example.

Is the source independent or does it belong with other sources? How? Can you find two independent sources, such as two eyewitnesses?

Do there appear to be value assessments in the material? Does the source represent anyone’s interests; is it a defence lawyer, for example, or an interest organisation such as the Federation of Swedish Farmers (LRF) or the Swedish Homeowners Association (Villaägarna)? Can you find contradictory information and how credible will this then be?

Within source criticism, there is also a distinction between primary sources, which are the same as original sources and first-hand sources, and secondary sources, which recount something they have learned from a primary source.

Source: Torsten Thurén, Källkritik (2013) (Source Criticism)