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Got a research assignment to write? The library is the best place to start with that research. A good place to start might be searching our catalogue. This will show you whether there are any books or journals in the library with information on your topic. Aside from our extensive physical collection, we subscribe to a number of online databases that can give you the best information available on all manner of topics.
Why Can't I Just Google?
It is OK to use Google to find background or general information as a starting point for assignments. But for scholarly research you need to find accurate information on your topic from a variety of sources. Prepare yourself for university and start looking for in-depth, accurate, well researched works written by academics and researchers. You can find these reputable sources in our research databases or by searching our physical collection for journals and books.
Evaluate sources based on currency by asking the following questions:
When was the source published or written?
Is the time of publication or writing important for your topic?
Is there more current research available on the same topic?
Is the date evident for any visual aids, such as graphs, charts or tables?
Are the links up to date or are they broken?
Has the information been revised or updated?
Currency is only important if your topic dictates using the most recent information available. For example, if you are writing a research paper about the Civil War, currency is not important. However, if you are writing about the treatments for autism, currency is important, as science and technology change quite rapidly.
Evaluate sources based on the content and relevance by asking the following questions:
Does the content address the topic effectively?
Are the key questions about your topic answered within the content?
Does the content seem like it is likely to help your research?
Does the content provide any information that is new or useful?
Is the information basic and cursory or detailed and scholarly? Is the information substantial?
Was the page worth visiting?
Who is the intended audience of page?
If the content is lacking or does not address your topic, you should not use the source.
Evaluate sources on the authority of the author and the publisher by asking the following questions:
Who is the author?
Can you find the authority or credentials of the author?
Is the author an expert in this field? Are they qualified to write about this subject?
Does the author or publisher provide contact details?
Can you find the authority or credentials of the publisher?
Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
What if there is no author for an internet source?
If you cannot find information regarding the authority of the author or publisher while evaluating sources, you should not use the source. For internet sources without an author, the reliability is in question. Websites or publications by government agencies or well-established non-profit organizations are more reliable even with the absence of a named author.
Evaluate sources on the accuracy of information by asking the following questions:
Does the information in the article appear correct?
Does the article have a bibliography or reference list?
Is it clear where the author got his or her information?
Is it obvious who is responsible for the information?
Is it free from spelling errors?
Is the text well-written and grammatically correct?
Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
Has the content been through an editing process or been peer reviewed?
Are the sources cited reliable and can they be verified elsewhere?
Are research methodologies adequately explained?
If you cannot verify that the information is correct or that the author is an expert on the topic, you should not use the source.
Evaluate sources on their purpose, objectivity and bias by asking the following questions:
Is the objectivity of the source clear? Does it seem impartial?
Is the information fact or personal opinion?
Is there any obvious bias? e.g. political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal bias?
Is the website part of a commercial organisation, a political party or an organisation with a specific agenda, including advertising? If yes, question the motives for publishing the information.
Are other points of view explored?
Is the purpose obvious and clear?
Is the sole purpose of the article to give information, or does it promote or try to sell something?
i.e. is the purpose to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
The nature of your assignment and your topic determine how important it is for your sources to be objective. A lack of objectivity is not an automatic reason to dismiss a source if it fits the assignment and the topic while still allowing you to find other sources with opposing viewpoints.