Evaluating sources can be a complicated process. There is plenty of information available that is inaccurate, fraudulent, or biased. So it is important to determine if the sources you find are factual and verifiable.
Items in a library are generally easier to evaluate because they have already been reviewed twice by the time you see them: first, by an editor who verifies that the information is accurate, and then a librarian who determines whether the item is appropriate for the collection. Freely available Web sources usually do not pass through the same scrutiny or review, so you will need to look at these items more closely.
Often times, the type of research you are doing will dictate how thoroughly you need to examine your sources. Therefore, you will probably be less critical of information gathered for your own personal interests than for a paper. As you know, academic research requires accurate and documented sources.
After completing this section, you should be able to:
To determine if a print source is appropriate for your research, look at the following criteria:
Does the author have expertise to write on this topic?
To locate a date and determine whether the information is current enough:
The more you practice evaluating Web sources the faster and easier it will become. Eventually you will see that it is second nature for you to think critically and scrutinize the source of your information. In the meantime, here's a checklist to assist you in evaluating web-based information.
The term ethics refers to a particular code of conduct which is based upon standards that everyone in a society can agree upon. In order for the Web to continue to flourish it is important that it be used in accordance with certain minimal standards of conduct. The following information relates to ethics and is provided in order to facilitate and communicate a "thinking process" which will help to foster the continued growth as well as preserve the reliability of information on the Web.
With so much information out there for free it is easy to lose sight of the fact that certain individuals or manufacturers do not want their software given away. Remember the old adage, "You get what you pay for" -- be mindful of the fact that bootlegged copies may come with the special added feature -- an uninvited virus!
The idea of research is to study what others have published and form your own opinions. When you quote people, or even when you summarize or paraphrase information found in books, articles, or Web pages, you must acknowledge the original author.
If you use someone else's words or ideas without crediting them, you are committing a type of theft called plagiarism. Plagiarism can be as obvious as turning in another person's paper or project as your own or as subtle as paraphrasing sections of various works. It is also incorrect to copy text from Web pages or other sources without identifying where they came from.
Take clear, accurate notes about where you found specific ideas. Write down the complete citation information for each item you use. Use quotation marks when directly stating another person's words. Always credit original authors for their information and ideas.
Citing is the process of giving credit to the sources you used to write your paper. Citations can be located in the text or at the end of the work in a bibliography. It can be difficult to figure out what needs to be credited.
Use this rule of thumb: If you knew a piece of information before you started doing research, generally you do not need to credit it. You also do not need to cite well-known facts, such as dates, which can be found in many encyclopedias. All other information such as quotations, statistics, and ideas should always be cited in your papers.
As you create your list of cited sources, it is helpful to know what type of information you need to write down. Here is a citation from a database with each of its important parts labeled.
Formats for citing are consistent so that other researchers may quickly identify the sources you used and easily locate them. To find the guidelines for a particular format, you will need to look in a style manual. Your instructor will probably recommend a particular style manual such as APA, MLA, or Chicago Manual of Style. Each style manual format includes the same basic parts of that citation but may organize them slightly differently.
Look at the examples of citations in APA format:
Critical thinking is defined as the ability to assess the authenticity or accuracy of information claims or arguments. Living in an information rich environment requires that you recognize the dynamic and fluid nature of information and that you posses the skills necessary to successfully meet your information needs within this setting. In order to think critically, one must be information literate. Essentially, critical thinkers demonstrate that they can:
These skills are not inherent; rather, they are developed and require a conscious effort on the part of the information seeker. If you apply the skills outlined in this workbook, you will be well on your way to becoming a savvy user and consumer of information.
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||This material has been adapted from TILT, a site developed by the University of Texas System. Additional content created by : Mary Kate Boyd-Byrnes, Laura Manzari, Linda McCormack, Dona McDermott, and Andrea Rylander.||
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