Ethical Writing & Reliable Sources


  • Ethical writing is writing that clearly indicates (via documentation) where source material has been incorporated into one’s own writing.
  • Ethical writing is also writing that acknowledges a range of perspectives on an issue.  
  • Ethical writing is writing with a level of inclusion, respect, and acknowledgement of diversity.
  • The importance of ethical writing, then, is based not only upon the avoidance of plagiarism, but also avoiding the weaknesses of bias and exclusive language (sexist, racist, homophobic, etc.) This strengthens the credibility and persuasiveness of the writer’s argument.


  • Include many different viewpoints; it helps to ground your argument and make your own contribution stand out.
  • Respect, and take seriously, the opinions and beliefs of others. Explain other opinions fully and clearly, without bias.
  • Use an accredited opposing viewpoint. Choose an opposing argument that’s worth countering, not an easily discredited “straw man.”


  • Try to avoid making assumptions about what your audience knows or about who they are.
  • Try to avoid overly emotional words, euphemisms, and other types of “loaded language.”
  • Consider factors such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, age, ability, etc. when writing, and avoid stereotypes.
  • Use inclusive language (language that avoids assumptions and includes others).
    • For example, say “police officer” rather than “policeman” (which would exclude female police officers).


  • Cite sources properly, using the most recent documentation style sheet/manual available.
  • Cite any and all ideas that are “borrowed” (anything that did not originate with you).
  • Cite BOTH paraphrases AND direct quotes.
  • Ask professors which citation style is preferable (MLA, APA, ASA, Chicago, etc.)

For further discussion of ethical writing practices, see The Everyday Writer by Andrea Lunsford.


How to determine the credibility of a source

  1. Research the writer. What are his/her credentials?
  2. What press published it/what website posted it?
  3. How long ago was it created? Is it still viable?
  4. Why was it created? Does it represent a particular viewpoint?
  5. Is it directly relevant to your argument? Is it something your audience wants/needs to know?
  6. If it’s from the internet, is it a credible site? How do you know? 
  7. Do not use Wikipedia or any other non-juried collaborative site!
  8. Go to the Purdue Owl for more details.


Strive for Objective Research

  • Objective research is when you as a student search for answers without being overly influenced by your own personal beliefs or preconceived notions about the topic.
  • One thing to be sure of while researching is to not build an opinion-based argument. This is where you pick and choose only those bits of information that support your viewpoint, while ignoring any contradictory evidence.

Visit the Campus Library

  • The Campus Library has a multitude of ways that you can find reliable sources. One of the most beneficial databases can be found on their website. It is called Academic Search Complete (under the “Finding Articles” tab). It contains a range of databases that will pertain to your specific subject.
  • Another database that can be found in the Library is access to the Ohio Link Program. Ohio link is a conglomeration of all state funded libraries in Ohio. If a book is in circulation in the state of Ohio, you can request it and have it in your hands within two weeks free of charge.
  • For assistance using these programs, ask a librarian for help.

Academic Sources

  • There are many different types of sources available on the internet, in publications, and in other media. Making sure that the source is academically appropriate is key to academic success. Investigate your sources before using them. Have they been thoroughly reviewed by experts in the field before publication?
  • Look for books published by university and other well-known, well-respected presses. Check book reviews. What do scholars think of it?
  • Academic articles are another great source for research. Reputable academic journals are different from “popular press” magazines. Many library databases allow you to limit your searches to academic sources. Look for the “Scholarly Journals” box to check in “Search Options” before you hit the “Search” button.