Databases to Help You Pick a Topic
Not sure whether you should use that source for your assignment?
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[-] Is the author identified?
The author may be a person, group of people, or an organization. Beware of articles marked "Anonymous". On most websites, author information is found on the top or bottom of the page. If you cannot find author information anywhere, you should not cite this source. Reputable publishers choose the authors they work with carefully so the books and articles you find in library databases are likely to have appropriate credentials.
[-] What are the author's qualifications?
Usually an author's affiliation is given with articles you find in the databases. If the author of a Web page has provided an “About” page, this can be an excellent source of information about him or her. If the author is associated with an organization, such as a college or business, you can check that organization's website for information on the author.
[-] Is the page free of advertisements?
Ads on a page usually mean that the author of that page is interested in something other than simply presenting information. You should always be cautious in using information from such pages.
[-] Is the information free of unreasonable bias?
A good source will not let bias affect the information contained within it. If you can detect a strong leaning, whether political, religious, or otherwise, you should avoid that source.
[-] Is the information presented without motives or an agenda?
The best information allows you as the reader to come to your own conclusions; if you see that the author is trying to convince you of something, and especially if you can spot gaps or misinformation in what is presented, you should avoid using that source.
[-] Can you confirm the information in other sources?
One of the best ways to check if information is correct is if you can find that same information in other, completely separate sources.
[-] Does the author include a reference list or bibliography?
Good scholarship can be identified by “Works Cited” or “Bibliography” sections.
[-] Is the article long enough?
Long is a relative term, but generally speaking, less than 5 pages (articles) or 3 screens (webpages) is too short to present most high-quality information.
[-] Is the article mostly text, or are there a lot of images?
Scholarly work rarely relies on images to present information, outside of simple graphs and charts. Photographs usually indicate popular, rather than academic work.
Turn a Topic into a Search
Using AND, OR, or NOT (The Boolean Operators):
- AND will bring up results with ALL the words (narrows your results)
- OR will show results with either word (more results)
- NOT will eliminate results containing a certain word (narrows your results)
Diabetes AND treatment
Gay OR Homosexual
Tigers NOT Detroit
Why Shouldn't I use Wikipedia?
See what Stephen Colbert has to say about Wikipedia.