|Basic Library Research Skills||
Southern Utah University
Selection of appropriate information is an important part of quality research. With so much information available, from so many different sources, each piece of information that you select must be carefully reviewed to ensure the authority, accuracy, and currency that best supports your research. Critical evaluation of the information you find is essential to quality research.tically evaluate these sources and pick the best ones.
Why be critical of information you find? Publishers usually have some level of "quality control" over the information they publish. However, this review process varies so much that your own assessment is important. For example, popular magazines usually only have internal editorial control over what is published. Quality control for this type of publisher is usually based on how well the publication sells. On the other hand, quality control for the publishing of a peer reviewed journal or a book from an academic press is based on it's acceptance by experts or specialists.
Some of the information for determining information quality may be readily apparent in the source itself. For example, a peer reviewed journal article reporting results of medical breakthrough would be accepted as good quality information, and only questioned by specialists in that field. However, were you to use a newspaper article describing this medical breakthrough, it would be wise to check additional sources to determine the quality and accuracy of the reporting.
There are subtle differences when evaluating different types of information. However, there are three criteria that you should consider with any type of information you consider using. You should ask - does the information source have authority, accuracy, and currency?
If any of your sources do not meet these three criteria, you should consider finding other information
The Web has made it possible, in just a few clicks of a mouse, to get information from around the world. It is important to understand the difference between information found on the Web and in online research databases. The library pays a subscription fee for these online databases which contain electronic versions of journals and magazines. These electronic versions are usually the electronic version of a printed version. In fact, many of the print versions of journals and magazines owned by the library and available in the Serials Collection, are available as electronic versions on various subscription databases.
For example, Academic Search Premier is an online database that contains scholarly journals that are considered reliable and relevant by experts in their fields. There is a great deal of time and effort involved in maintaining online research databases. Web pages, for the most part, may or may not be sustained from day to day, or month to month. In short, information found on research databases are not considered Web resources, they are library resources delivered using the Web.
Because of these facts, most college professors will consider information from the Web a poor choice for your research. Therefore, you need to take extra caution when reviewing and selecting Web sources.
Authority: Is there an author or publisher for the Web page?
- Does the Web page have an author? Check to see if the Web page that has information about your topic provides the name of the author. On Web pages, this is usually located at the bottom of the page. If the page has no author, it is recommended that it not be used for your assignment.
- Is contact information included? Look for an e-mail link, address or telephone number, and check links to the home page.
- Where is the page published? Check the URL (e.g., http://www.purdue.edu) and domain name (.gov, .edu, .com, etc.) as a clue to authority. For example:
.gov - Government agencies (Federal, state, local) .edu - Educational institutions .mil - Military .org - Organizations (nonprofit) .net - Network organizations .com - commercial business
It is recommended that you stick to using sites with .gov, .edu, .mil, or .org domains for your college research needs.
Accuracy: Is the information correct and based on proven facts?
- Are facts and figures accurate? Look to see if sources to factual information are listed.
- Can the information be verified in another source? Search Academic Search Premier to see if similar information is available in other sources.
- Does the information appear to be objective or is the viewpoint biased? Read enough of the Web page to make sure the author is objective and impartial, and not trying to entertain, sell, or persuade.
Currency: Is the information up-to-date?
- Is the date of creation or revision on the Web page? The date the Web page was created or revised is usually on the bottom of the page. If you are unable to find any date for the page, it is highly recommended that you not use it for your assignment.
- Is any information on the page outdated? If so, it has probably not been updated lately.
- Are the links on the page up-to-date? If you click on links that go nowhere, the page has probably not been updated lately.
Determining the quality of information on the Web is not always an easy task. A great deal of money is spent designing Web sites to lure viewers. If you found information on the Web that satisfies these criteria, it would probably be a reliable source of information. However, the best rule to follow is to confirm information you find on the Web with printed sources.
In this class you will be asked to find a Web site on your topic, then evaluate the Web site using these criteria. However, be aware that many of your professors will likely not want you using information from the Web for research in their classes. They will want you to use information from more reliable sources, so be sure to ask your instructor about using Web resources in their class.