You want your readers to take your content seriously, to know that they can trust you as a source for information. The easiest way to do this is by sharing your sources with your readers. Most of the writing produced through Content Runner is informative, and information doesn’t exist within a vacuum, it has to come from somewhere: those are your sources.
Everyone Needs Sources
Even if you’re an expert on a subject, chances are you’ve gone ahead and done some research for the piece you’re writing (or paying someone else to write), so you should go ahead and share some of those sources. If you haven’t done any research, stop, turn around, and go do some! Even if you’re an expert on a subject, you can’t expect your readers to take your word for it without giving them something to back up your statements. Sharing your sources shows readers that you know what you’re talking about, especially if they don’t know much about roof repair, or investment, or bail bonds. It also shows them that you’ve got nothing to hide, and that you trust them to come to much the same conclusions about the information that you have.
Not All Sources are Created Equal
This is why it’s important to rely upon, and share, only sources that are trustworthy and reliable. Certain sources are more valuable than others. Websites that end in .gov or .edu are usually good bets, and large media outlets, such as major newspapers or widely circulated magazines, can usually be trusted. That’s not to say that .com and .org websites can’t be trusted. All sources should be vetted before you choose to rely upon them. Make sure to read an article in full and follow their sources if you still need convincing. This is also a great way to find more sources that might be helpful! A good rule of thumb is to look at the kinds of content a website hosts. If it’s all “listicles,” articles which just consist of lists of “the X most amazing corgi pictures,” or consists entirely of reposts of articles from other websites, you should probably look elsewhere. It’s best to avoid Wikipedia, or any other wiki type site, as well. The problem with these sites is that they present information based on consensus, which means that authors don’t take credit, or responsibility, for the information. A good thing to keep in mind is whether or not an article has an author; if someone is willing to put their name on a piece that means they’re confident that the information they have is trustworthy.
Doing the research necessary to find some sources isn’t that hard. A Google search for the topic you’re writing about is probably the best place to start, and that doesn’t take very long at all. For example, the search “common plumbing problems” came back with 586,000 results in .38 seconds on Google. Obviously those aren’t all going to be great, and you certainly don’t need to read that many, but it gives you an idea of how much information is out there. Check out the results on the first page or so, and then do a different search. Relying on one set of keywords for all your sources will likely result in a lot of articles telling you the same thing.
How Much is Enough?
The questions of how many sources to include, and how to work them into the piece, vary as much as the content they might appear in. In either case, it really depends on the format and where the final product is going to appear on the Internet. You can include them as links within the body of a blog post, or you might provide them as endnotes for something more technical or academic. As to the number you should include, three is a good bet. Very short articles might only need one or two, while longer pieces might need more.
Go Forth and Research!
Whether you’re visiting Content Runner to find Writers or to find work, sources are important. If you’re a User, you should consider providing a link or two in the instructions to give writers somewhere to start. If you’re a Writer, start with these, but don’t be afraid to do some extra research. It helps if you’re writing something within a niche that you’re comfortable with. Chances are if you’re writing something in a niche that you know well, you’ll also be familiar with places to start your research.