Unit 5: Conducting Independent Research

35 Finding & Evaluating Sources

Finding and evaluating sources

Consider the different types of sources and the pros and cons of using each source type:

Source Pro Con
Electronic databases easy to use; powerful the number of results can be overwhelming if you have not narrowed my search
Books online books are easily searchable; edited works may contain a single chapter I can focus on instead of reading the whole book physical books are heavy; not all books are available as a PDF
Newspapers short articles; easy to read might not be academic or current
Google Scholar relatively easy to search you might have to pay for an article (but you never have to pay when you use Google Scholar in the UW databases)
General internet search (i.e. Google) easy to search; no cost too many results

Do not assume that all of the sources are appropriate for your topic or for academic writing. Before reading each article, evaluate the source using these questions:

    1. Is the source directly related to my topic? If not, then it might not be worth downloading and reading.
    2. Can I understand the source? If it is too technical (or too long), you might choose a different source.
    3. What types of information are available in the source? Expert opinions? Fact and/or statistics? Results from research studies? Example evidence? Historical or current examples?
    4. How current is the source? If it is more than 5 years old, it might be too old (unless you are comparing and contrasting information from the past with the present or providing historical background).
    5. Is the information biased? For example, if you are researching the topic “animal rights” and you visit PETA’s website (PETA stands for “People for the Ethical Treatment of Animal”) you must consider what potential viewpoints are promoted on their website.
    6. Important: You may use Wikipedia for exploratory research, to learn more about your topic in a general way. However, most instructors at the university level do not accept Wikipedia as a reliable source.

Generally speaking, sources from the UW Libraries’ databases are more likely to be appropriate. However, sources located from a general Google search may not be appropriate and should be subject to greater scrutiny using the questions above.

Use the UW Libraries Website

Visit the homepage to access the databases: https://www.library.wisc.edu/

Consult the UW Libraries tutorials: https://www.library.wisc.edu/help/research-tips-tricks/

Choose a citation manager to manage your sources: https://www.library.wisc.edu/research-support/collecting-organizing-analyzing-information/citation-managers/

Watch this video on Evaluating Resources

From Kristina Ulmer

Watch this video on Selecting a Resource

Learn about the value of using library databases to locate credible resources.

From: Steely Library NKU



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