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Conducting Research

Tips from your Washington University librarians on locating, evaluating, and citing sources used in your research.

Wikipedia?

Ever wonder what's the best way to use Wikipedia?  Check out the helpful hints here for determing when its okay to use Wikipedia.

Evaluating Sources: Books, Articles and Websites

In conducting your own research, you must wisely evaluate the articles, books, journals, and websites you use.  Use the criteria below to assess possible sources.

Authorship

Publisher and Point-of-View

Subject Expertise

Currency

Why evaluate websites?

Since anyone can, and probably will, put anything on the Internet, it is necessary first to evaluate the material before using it for academic purposes.

Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

Criteria Scholarly Article                                                        
Popular Article
Authorship

 

Authors are scholars and experts in the field. Authors are always named, and their institutional affiliation is given.    

Authors are staff writers or journalists.
Publisher

 

Publishers may be university presses or professional associations. Articles may be edited through the peer-review process by scholars in the same field of study.

Publishers are corporations, working for profit.
Content/Length     

 

Articles are longer with a focus on research projects, methodology and theory. Language is more formal, technical, using discipline specific terminology.

 

Articles may be shorter with a general focus on the topic and written for news or entertainment value.

Sources Cited

 

Sources are cited and a bibliography or footnotes provided to document the research.

Sources are not usually cited.
Structure

 

Article may include these sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, and a bibliography.   

Specific format is not followed.
Audience

 

Audience consists of academics, scholars, researchers, and professionals.

Audience is the general public.