A lot of terms are related to source criticism:
- cognitive authority; authority (textual criticism)
- credibility (e.g. media credibility)
- critical literacy /critical reading /critical thinking /Information literacy
- information criticism /information quality /information evaluating
- quality of evidence / quality norms in science and scholarship
- source evaluation / source reliability
- trust (social sciences); trustworthiness
One distinction may be made between normative terms (such as source criticism) which prescribe methodological principles about the use of information sources and on the other hand descriptive terms like credibility, which tend to describe users' attitudes towards sources. These two aspects are, however, not always clearly separated.
The relative meanings of many of these terms as used in the literature have been explored by Savolainen (2007). Here are some quotes from this paper:
- "Media credibility and cognitive authority denote closely related concepts that are difficult to define unambiguously. This is partly because they overlap with a number of closely related concepts like quality of information, believability of media, and reliability and trustworthiness of information " (Savolainen, 2007).
- "Information scientists tend to favour the concept of cognitive authority, while communication researchers prefer concepts such as source-, message-, medium- and media credibility". (Savolainen, 2007).
- "Overall, cognitive authority was characterized as having six facets; trustworthiness, reliability, scholarliness, credibility, 'officialness' and authoritativeness; of these, trustworthiness was perceived as the primary facet. " (Savolainen, 2007).
- "In turn, it is characteristic of studies on media credibility that they focus on the channel through which the content is delivered . Typically, these studies have explored the criteria by which diverse media such as newspapers, radio and television are perceived as believable sources of information. As early as in the 1950s, regular surveys of media credibility were conducted in the United States by asking respondents to indicate which medium they would believe if they got conflicting reports of the same news story from radio, television, magazines and newspapers". (Savolainen, 2007).
- "An empirical survey conducted in the late 1990s in Germany revealed that the credibility of the Web was fairly high among the general public, although printed newspapers were rated ahead of it . Compared to the Web, newspapers were perceived as more clear, serious, thorough, detailed, critical, generally credible, balanced, competent and professional. With regard to these qualities, the differences between television and the Web were less significant. The Web was conceived of as more up-to-date than newspaper and television. On the one hand, newspapers were considered more biased than television and the Web. This is due to the fact that although most newspapers call themselves neutral they nevertheless do have a political bias. On the other hand, the greater bias of newspapers may be seen as positive since they articulate alternative positions in public discourse. Interestingly, when asked which medium they would prefer in the case of contradictory news on the same issue, the respondents would mainly place their trust in traditional media." (Savolainen, 2007).
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