Examining citations is one of the ways to establish the reliability of a source, but it is not the only one.
Many other factors also come into play. An inconclusive list includes:
- Authority of the Author
- Logical structure and presence of fallacies
- Credibility of the source’s sources
- Patterns of citation
Of all these, we tried to go down the route of establishing a reliability of a page’s content solely based off of the patterns of citation, which is a really flawed way of looking at it. At the same time attempting to tackle a page content’s reliability by tackling all of the above factors and more would be overly ambitious, given our resources.
With this understanding, we have decided to take a step back, and go back to doing something feasible with our current set of technologies and resources – focusing on patterns of citation, which is what QuackCheck was originally built for.
This means that we are going to reverse course, and take out work done on trying to establish certain sources as inherently credible. These bonuses used to be applied to sites like international aid agencies, and some governmental sites. These sites will no longer receive a boost based on their inherently credibility, and will be judged solely based on their citations.
Look at our tool as a way to identify flaws in the way citations are being done, as part of your preliminary scan of how research on sources is done. Use Quackcheck as one of the indicators for a piece of content’s credibility, not the be-all-and-end-all.
QuackCheck can save you time helping you to identify potential issues with a piece of content before you start investing a big chunk of your time into it. Again, our tool is best used as a guide, and not a final solution.
Some warnings then moving forward: some sites are generally credible, like some government websites or UN websites, but these can produce a low citation score. That’s because these sites are generally inherently credibile to most people, and feel like they themselves do not need to prove this. A low score for these sites does not mean the content is bad, just that they feel that they do not need to practice great citation practices. True or false, we are not the judgers of that – you are.