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Evaluate Your Sources

You, the student researcher, have collected the sources for your research paper. Good! You may have a number of journal articles, Web site information, books, etc., for your assignment. Before you continue you must evaluate each source and determine if it is suitable for your research paper. It is essential that you evaluate information found on the Web. Why is this you ask? The main reason is that anyone can create and post any type of information to the Web. There is no person or organization that ensures the quality and authority of information that is placed on the Web. The Web is a “buyer beware” environment.
Therefore it is up to you, the student researcher, to determine whether a Web site is authoritative. Ask the Reference Librarian for help in checking out the author’s credentials.

NOTE: Instructors want students to use information that is objective, authoritative, accurate, and timely (especially for current event topics).

Authoritative means that the person writing the information is an expert on the subject, has a reputation in the field, or is a noted journalist, professor, etc. If information is from an authority in the field it can be considered quality information. In other words, don’t use the National Enquirer as a source for authoritative

The student researcher must evaluate the authority of magazine and newspaper articles found in print or online (ProQuest, SIRS, etc.)

Journal articles from peer-reviewed journals are a good source for authoritative information. These journal articles are written by knowledgeable authors and are reviewed by other experts on that subject before being published. Instructors usually encourage students to use journal articles in student research papers.

NOTE: Use the “Peer-Reviewed” option in ProQuest to locate articles from peer-reviewed journals.

Objective means that the material is fair, balanced, and reasoned.

Ask Yourself:
Who is the author of the book, article, Web site, etc.?
What are the credentials of the author?

Then Do This:
• Review the book, article, Web site, etc. and determine if the author is respected and an expert (authority) in his/her field.

Ask Yourself:
What is the publication or update date?

Then Do This:
• For current event topics the date should be recent. For historical or background information older information is acceptable.

Ask Yourself:
Is the book, article, or Web site biased or objective?

Then Do This:
Use the information about the author/organization to determine this. For example, information published by the National Rifle Association is biased toward gun ownership.


Step 9 Cite Your Sources  

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