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Communication Studies

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Video by libncsu Published on Jun 9, 2015. This helpful video by North Carolina State University Library provides insight into the importance of evaluating a source. 

Click here for the Transcript

 

Wikipedia logo with red X

Wikipedia can be a good source for quick lookups and background information but should not be used as a source for academic research.  Because anyone can contribute or edit articles, at any given time articles may not be accurate or unbiased. 

The following statement is from the Wikipedia page "Researching With Wikipedia":

" You should not use Wikipedia by itself for primary research (unless you are writing a paper about Wikipedia)."

World Wide Web logo

Searching for and evaluating information found on the Internet is a survival skill students must have in order to succeed.  There are right and wrong ways to search for and use information from the Internet.  Use the tips on this page to guide your research.

Online information generally falls into two categories:

  • Open Web -- Freely available information from websites found using search engines such as Google and Yahoo.  Anyone with Internet access can put any kind of information on the open web.
  • Hidden/Invisible Web -- Information not found by general search engines including the contents of scholarly journals, research studies,and other searchable databases with limited access.

Sites on the Open Web, while easy to find, must be carefully evaluated for things like accuracy, authority, currency, etc.  When your professors indicate that you should not use information from the Internet for your research, they are usually referring to the Open Web.

The library's subscription databases such as GALE, EBSCO, ProQuest, and JSTOR are a part of the Hidden Web that is available to Mesa students 24/7.  The articles in these sources are from reputable magazines and journals, many of them scholarly and peer-reviewed.

Google Scholar is a mix of the two.  While anyone can get a list of scholarly resources, most can only be accessed if your school or public library subscribes to the journal or database and you must login with an ID or barcode number.

Consider the numbers for a search for scholarly articles on the health effects of smoking

  • Google search -- 7,520,000 results.  Number that are articles: unknown.  Number that are scholarly: unknown.
  • Google Scholar -- 1,570,000 results.  Number that can be viewed by Mesa students: unknown
  • EbscoHost (library subscription database) -- 351 results using limit to full text and scholarly articles. Number that can be viewed by Mesa students: all

We've gathered some tried and true websites

that might help you get started

Fact-Checking Websites

When researching controversial topics you will find that there is a lot of misinformation, rumors, and misleading information on the internet. These websites can help you fact check your information and information sources. 

​A project of the Annneburg Public Policy Center this nonpartisan nonprofit website reviews the factual accuracy of political statements, speeches, and internet sources on a variety of political topics. 

"The Snopes.com web site was founded by David Mikkelson, a project begun in 1994 as an expression of his interest in researching urban legends that has since grown into the oldest and largest fact-checking site on the Internet — one widely regarded by journalists, folklorists, and laypersons alike as one of the world’s essential resources."

Developed by the nonpartisan, independent, nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, the award winning OpenSecrets.org is a comprehensive resource for federal campaign contributions, lobbying data and analysis.

Free Research from social sector organizations around the world on over 30 topics

Provides nonpartisan research data on societal issues and trends

 

Back of a person wearing a bckpack with a Facts Matter button on it

Pro/Con Websites

ProCon.org

ProCon.org  ins a nonprofit, nonpartisan website provides "professionally-researched pro, con, and related information on more than 50 controversial issues from gun control and death penalty to illegal immigration and alternative energy​" 

Debatabase: A World of Great Debates 

Developed by the International Debate Education Association, Debatabas provides both sides of the debate on a variety of areas including politics, economics, religion, culture, science and society.