Use and Organize My Information

How to Cite Sources

What Materials Should I Use?

Books vs Journal Articles

 Books  Journal Articles
 Lengthy coverage  Short packet of information
 Lots of detail and explanation, both general and specific  Focuses on a well-defined topic, usually very specifically
 Provides overviews, summaries, introductions  Limited context--cites sources to provide background
 Slow publication (compared to journals)--Not "current" information  Fast publication (compared to books)
 Scholarly or non-scholarly works  Scholarly or non-scholarly articles


The Web 
It's a great tool, but using the Web as a universal application is like using duct tape as a universal repair product--it may "work" but you usually could have done it better.


  • Current news, including weather, politics, conflicts, crime, etc.
  • "Finding" people, businesses, organizations, etc.
  • Social networking and communication Recreation--Sports, entertainment, movies, music, etc.
  • Information from state and U.S. governments
  • Special interests--A grab-bag of hobbies, fringe social movements, and specialized areas of research.
  • Open access e-publications
  • Materials in libraries and museums


  • Is not the sum of all human knowledge--There's stil a lot out there in print.
  • Here today, gone tomorrow nature of many web pages
  • Unsigned, undated work--Difficult to prove authority and accuracy.
  • Lack of openly available scholarly content--The content's there but you have to subscribe, be a member, etc.
  • "Hidden" content--Web search engines don't reach everywhere.

If you need:

  • Definitions, brief explanations, concepts--Use dictionaries and encyclopedias.
  • The most recent information available--Use journal articles and the Web.
  • Authoritative information--Use scholarly journals and books, or authoritative websites.
  • Formulas, constants, numerical values, statistics--Use handbooks.
  • To trace a concept or research over time--Use journal articles and review books.
  • Explanations, examples--Use textbooks.


Evaluating Sources

Useful--Ask yourself:

  • How much information do you need? For a short paper, journal articles or book chapters may be more helpful.
  • What's your deadline? You may not have time to read hundreds of pages.
  • Do you need current information, or older?
  • Do you need scholarly sources? Authoritative? Opinionated?

Scholarly Checklist--Look for:

  • Authors listed, with credentials
  • Bibliography or works cited
  • Reviewed by peers or experts in the subject, and published by a reputable publisher
  • Purpose is to inform or impart knowledge, not to sell, persuade, entertain
  • Appears impartial--no advertisements, emotional language, bias
  • Includes data, observations, statistics, or graphics to support conclusions

Authoritative--A source can have authority even if it isn't scholarly.

  • Author and/or publisher is an expert on the subject, for example
    • Manufacturer's catalogs
    • Legal or regulatory information
    • Autobiographical works or personal accounts of events (to some degree)

Credible--If you want to dig deeper:

  • Do you see errors in spelling, grammar, data?
  • Are the sources being cited in the publication themselves scholarly or authoritative?
  • Is the publication in turn cited by other credible works published later?



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Last Updated: 12/18/2013 11:16:10