Primary vs Secondary Sources
-Diaries or journals
-Art (Visual & Permorming)
-Government documents (treaties)
-Newspaper articles (written at the time of an event)
-Books about a topic
-Reference books (although might contain a reprinted portion of a primary source)
-Journal and magazine articles
-Newspaper articles (written about an event after it happened)
Find more information about primary and secondary sources.
Make Sure and Evaluate All Websites
Currency: the timeliness of the information
- When was the information published or posted?
- Has the information been revised or updated?
- Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
- Are the links functional?
Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs
- Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
- Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
- Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?
Authority: the source of the information
- Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
- Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
- What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
- What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
- Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
- Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?.com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)
Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content, and
- Where does the information come from?
- Is the information supported by evidence?
- Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
- Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
- Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
- Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?
Purpose: the reason the information exists
- What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
- Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
- Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
- Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
- Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?
By scoring each category on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = worst, 10=best possible) you can give each site a grade on a 50 point scale for how high-quality it is!
45 - 50 Excellent | 40 - 44 Good | 35 - 39 Average | 30 - 34 Borderline Acceptable | Below 30 - Unacceptable
Courtesy of Meriam Library, California State University, Chico.
About Using Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a great tool for a summary of a topic. Wikipedia content is constantly revised, and entries vary in quality. Some of the content is excellent, some is questionable.
How can you use Wikipedia in a way that benefits your research process?
- Scan the article to get general information and terms you can use as keywords for further searching.
- Scan the article for references and view the External Links. Sometimes these can lead you to excellent books or articles that you can find in the print or digital resources of the Keefe Library or Boston Public Library.
- Don't reference Wikipedia articles in your paper.
- As you read Wikipedia articles, you may read notations that call for more evidence, or call attention to bias. These are very constructive principles that highlight some of the areas of improvement needed in an article.
Many educators frown on the use of Wikipedia. Why?
- Wikipedia content is not necessarily written by subject experts, and may be inadequate or incorrect.
- Articles in Wikipedia may be changed or deleted between viewings.
- For research papers, you need authoritative resources, so it is absolutely necessary to consult other sources.
- Anyone can search Google or find a Wikipedia article. To demonstrate academic skill, it is important to go beyond these basic tools.
Adapted with permission from "Web Resources: About Using Wikipedia." Art and Art History. Lane Community College Library LibGuide.