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English Research Guide

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 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