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Library Research 101: Evaluate Resources

Why Evaluate?

When you are engaged in the research process, you want to limit your searching to quality, reliable, credible and accurate sites.

If you use the Internet for research, you should know that recent studies found that less than 7% of search results could be considered research-worthy material. 

Always examine websites with a critical eye, especially those you encounter for the first time.

Authority Is Constructed and Contextual

Information resources reflect their creators’ expertise and credibility, and are evaluated based on the information need and the context in which the information will be used. Authority is constructed in that various communities may recognize different types of authority. It is contextual in that the information need may help to determine the level of authority required.

--- ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

Worcester ARC card

If we don't have something you need, check out the links for Other Libraries in Worcester. There are links to individual libraries as well as online catalogs for groups of libraries across the country. Remember, you can have access to most area college libraries by getting a Worcester consortium ARC card at the Circulation Desk in the Library.

Journals vs. Magazines

Scholarly journals are often referred to as peer reviewed or refereed journals.

  • Journal articles have undergone a review process by selected experts in the field before being accepted for publication.
  • They have a serious format including abstract, introduction, methodology and conclusion.
  • All of the sources are cited with footnotes and/or a bibliography.
  • They use the terminology and language of the discipline for readers having the similar research background.

General interest or popular magazines

  • Their articles do not undergo peer review.
  • They usually have an attractive format with photos and illustrations.
  • They are frequently written for a general audience by a staff or scholarly writer.
  • The language is simple and easy to understand.

How to find Scholarly / Peer Reviewed articles?

One of the most frequent questions asked of librarians is how to find, or where are the Peer Reviewed Journals. Most scholarly information is not freely available on the Internet, so the library's databases are the best place to start.

  1. Choose the databases best suited to your particular topic. To get started, try the top databases listed in the subject guides prepared by experts in the field.
  2. Enter your search terms in the search box in the database. The WSU subscription databases are the place to find primary material, scholarly peer reviewed journals and others that professors demand for your research. These are resources that can't be found using search engines as they are available only by subscription to libraries. The databases have advanced search features. And, of course, many of these databases also have large collections of full text articles that you can print out or save a PDF copy to your computer.
  3. There will be a box where you can click to "refine" or "limit" your search results to return only "peer reviewed" or "scholarly" journals. Usually, the "limits" box is directly underneath the search box. 
  4. Articles not available full text online? Books not owned by Worcester State? Then use the Interlibrary Loan service which borrows books or obtains photocopies of articles for you. You may use your WSU credential to log into the ILL online system to submit requests or download articles. This service is limited to use by the WSU community.

Be Critical for the Internet Soures

The Web is a self-publishing medium so anyone can publish anything online - and they doContent on the Internet (Web) ranges from good to awful; accurate to downright wrong, misleading or dangerous. 

When you use search engines like Google or Yahoo, you're only crawling the surface of the billions of individual web pages posted online. 

Sites on the Internet vary in quality. It can be difficult to judge which sources are reliable and which are not trustworthy. Before you even consider using content from those sites in your research, think about your (or your professor's) requirements for the quality and reliability of your information. Go beyond what a site looks like, and don't let technology camouflage poor content.