Sources Named: Who I quote and why

I doubt anyone ever noticed since no one has ever commented, but I apply a hierarchy when it comes to quoting sources to back up my statements.  Nothing undermines and argument like a dubious source, and who I quote might say something about me (e.g. Naomi Klein, yes; Naomi Wolf, no).

I always try to seek first hand sources.  If someone is quoting another, go back to that quoted source – because sometimes, even they are quoted sources.  Quotemining, biases and agendas, misunderstanding, “interpretation”, or a game of telephone – they all detract from what you’re trying to say.

Below the fold is a rough and very incomplete list of sources by what I consider their level of credibility.  Those named are not the only source I would use, and this applies to any subject or science (even though many listed are medical).  The groups listed near the top are interchangeable, several being equally credible.  Those at the bottom (less credible or fact checked) being interchangeable for credibility.

Universities and Colleges:

  • Any accredited institution doing peer reviewed research

Medical publications:


Government Agencies:

Medical bodies:

Research Agencies:

Disease Research Organizations:

  • __________ Cancer Association/Society (insert country name)
  • __________ Lung Association/Society (insert country name)

Museums and Science Advocates:

Reference Sources:

Independent News Media:

Corporate News Media:

  • Wire services (not linked or named for a reason)
  • Print and online newspapers
  • Commercial television news (e.g. BBC, CBC)

Less Established News Media:

Medical Periodicals and Websites:

Political and Human Rights Media:

Opinion Sites and Pages:

Substandard News Media:

Blogs (independent and collectives):

This is not a be-all-and-end-all list, and suggestions and amendments are welcome.

In computer science, people talk about “bare metal programming”, getting as close to machine language as possible.  And when talking about facts and data, I want to be as close to the original and source as possible.  I may not be a credible source, but I want those I quote to be.

Putting blogs as the bottom is not condemnation or insult, especially since I write one. But generally speaking, these are opinion pages without the finances and resources to do more than internet searches and commenting on events, hence why the push for original sources.


  1. jrkrideau says

    One of my favourite quotes:

    One of the things I have learned from reading secondary sources on historical cooking is that you should never trust a secondary source that does not include the primary, since you have no way of knowing what liberties the author may have taken in his “interpretation” of the recipe.

    David Friedman

    I, once, was reading a position paper from a physicians’ association in Canada. I am an inveterate checker of references, by which I mean that i spent a lot of time flipping from main text to reference list and back.
    In this paper, IIRC, the first seminal reference was written incorrectly so I got interested in how accurate the paper was.

    This was quite a while ago, but if I remember correctly the authors failed to notice that one ref was using miles/hr not kilometres/hr as they had reported, did not realize that another paper was talking about a different device which had a similar name, quoted 11 year old US statistics when current Canadian stats were available from StatCan and so on.

    I have two or three blogs that I give a lot of weight but I also know who is writing and their qualifications in the areas they write about.

    BTW, I would quibble about the BBC & CBC being commercial news sources in the same way CTV or Sky News is.

  2. seachange says

    The CDC is Centers (plural, American spelling) for Disease Control (and often omitted:) and Prevention.

    There was a kid in my high school who was from Taiwan and he was pretty relentless about source. I presumed it was just because you are where you’re from.

  3. Jazzlet says

    Rhiannon, thank you for this, it’ is always good practise to be clear about both your sources and the weight you give them. I wonder if … aaaaargh I can’t think of the right words, what I’m trying to say is if you could have a permanent link to it in the side bar, Marcus does this for some of his posts so people can find them easily.