Chapter 4, “Sources” pp. 23-30
Weston observes that much of the information we have comes from a source outside ourselves. Because the sources we use may be more or less authoritative and more or less accurate, Weston gives us “a checklist of standards that truly authoritative sources need to meet” (Weston 2009, 23).
First (section 13), when a truth claim has very specific information associated with it, we should find and cite the source.
Second (section 14), sources cited should be credible. They need to have some sort of expertise in the field of study. “Where a source’s qualifications are not immediately clear, an argument must explain them briefly” (Weston, 24). Likewise, if a source of information has only fragmentary knowledge of a topic, it is good to be candid about that fact. This is what the best sources do in their own work. “Most good sources will offer at least some reasons or evidence - examples, facts, analogies, other kinds of arguments - to help explain and defend their conclusions” (Ibid., 25).
Third (section 15), sources who are impartial are normally the best source of information. Independent sources and sources which engage actual arguments are generally the most reliably impartial.
Fourth (section 16), sources of information should be compared. This process of cross-checking is valuable. Where there is little consensus it is more difficult to weigh information. Weston does grant that less tangible issues tend to be more immune to cross-checking. Weston’s footnote about climate change as a widely recognized issue is an intriguing example. The source he reports, from 2007, was fairly current and widely accepted at the time of the book’s publication in 2009. Since that time there have been discoveries about the preparation of the reported source which have eroded its credibility. He therefore unknowingly presented a very valid example of the need for ongoing cross-checking.
Fifth (section 17), Weston points out the caution which should be exercised in web searches. Some sources are not as reliable as others. Credibility of web sites can be weighed and evaluated.