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Managing the Research Process

This guide seeks to reinforce metaliteracy skills and help researchers to "utilize divergent (e.g., brainstorming) and convergent (e.g., selecting the best source) thinking when searching" and “give credit" to the original ideas of others through proper c

Credo InfoLit: Evaluating Information

 

Evaluating Information

This module covers the basics of evaluating resources for authority, accuracy, and other criteria.

 Find learning objectives, standards addressed, discussion topics, & activity ideas here

EVALUATING INFORMATION MODULE ToC

  1. Introduction
  2. Video: What is Authority?
  3. Video: Evaluating Sources
  4. Tutorial: Evaluating Resources
  5. Tutorial: Choosing the Best Web Source
  6. Video: Objectivity in Reporting
  7. Quiz: Evaluating Information
  8. Instructor Guide 
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Credo InfoLit: Sources of Information

 

Sources of Information

This module covers how information is created and the many different types of sources that students encounter while doing research.

 Find learning objectives, standards addressed, discussion topics, & activity ideas here

SOURCES OF INFORMATION MODULE ToC

  1. Introduction
  2. Tutorial: Information Has Value
  3. Video: Data, Information, and Knowledge
  4. Video: Primary and Secondary Research
  5. Video: Primary and Secondary Sources
  6. Quiz: Primary and Secondary Sources
  7. Video: Peer Review
  8. Quiz: Peer Review
  9. Video: Types of Sources
  10. Quiz: Types of Sources
  11. Tutorial: How to Read Scholarly Materials
  12. Video: How to Read Scholarly Materials
  13. Instructor Guide 

SOURCES OF INFORMATION MODULE

  1. Introduction
  2. Tutorial: Information Has Value
  3. Video: Data, Information, and Knowledge
  4. Video: Primary and Secondary Research
  5. Video: Primary and Secondary Sources
  6. Quiz: Primary and Secondary Sources
  7. Video: Peer Review
  8. Quiz: Peer Review
  9. Video: Types of Sources
  10. Quiz: Types of Sources
  11. Tutorial: How to Read Scholarly Materials
  12. Video: How to Read Scholarly Materials
  13. Instructor Guide 
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Creating Research Strategies: Employing Appropriate Searching


Evaluate your sources: Questions to ask

 

Relevance & Appropriateness

  1. Does this pertain to your topic?
  2. Is this important to your topic?
  3. Will this support your thesis?

Authority & Credibility

  1. Who is writing this?
  2. Are they qualified to write on this subject?

Accuracy & Verifiability

  1. Are there references to check validity?
  2. Is the data available on claims made?

Bias & Objectivity

  1. Is this author expressing their opinion as fact?
  2. Are they trying to sway your viewpoint?

Currency & Timeliness

  1. When was this written?
  2. Is the date of the information relational to the source?

Scope & Depth

  1. Does it have breadth? Broad in scope
  2. Does it have depth? Intense in scope

Intended Audience & Purpose

  1. Who is this written for?
  2. What are they accomplishing by writing this?


Create a Search Strategy

Combine your keywords/search terms with Boolean operators

  • OR (synonyms: any of these words)
  • AND (restrict: all these words)

Break your research topic into keywords.

  • Many databases use specific terms to label documents. Use the "official" database terms from the results that work for you
  • Try the thesaurus or subject headings

Use parentheses with your terms and Boolean operators to create your search phrase.

Determine your conditions (such as publication year, document type or Peer Reviewed) and apply them to your search as limits or filters.

Place quotation marks (“ ”) around phrases to keep words together. Use this for an exact quote of the order of the search term.

Add asterisks (*) to “fill-in-the-blank” at the end of a word (this is called truncation). The asterisk will be replaced by any applicable letters. (You can use asterisks as a shortcut for OR-ing words that have identical roots.) For example, paint* will search for paint, painting, painters, painterly, etc.


Traditional print sources


Reference: A good place to start your research. Use encyclopedias and other reference materials to find the history of your topic, key figures, timelines, scholarship conversation, and the vocabulary (key words) to use when searching for sources.

Books and Textbooks: Books present a multitude of topics. Because of the time it takes to publish a book, books usually contain more dated information than will be found in journals and newspapers.

News Sources and Newspapers: Predominately covering the latest events and trends, newspapers contain very up-to-date information. Newspapers report both information that is factual in nature and also share opinions. Generally, however, they will not take a “big picture” approach or contain information about larger trends.

Academic and Trade Journals: Academic and trade journals are where to find the most up-to-date information and research in industry, business, and academia. Journal articles come in several forms, including literature reviews that overview current and past research, articles on theories and history, or articles on specific processes or research.

Government Reports and Legal Documents: The government releases information intended for its own use or for public use. These types of documents can be an excellent source of information. An example of a government report is the U.S. Census data. Most government reports and legal documents can now be accessed online.

Press Releases and Advertising: Companies and special interest groups produce texts to help persuade readers to act in some way or inform the public about some new development

Media: Printed material is certainly not the only option for finding research. Also consider media sources such as radio and television broadcasts, interactive talks, and public meetings.


Internet-only sources


Web sites: Most of the information on the Internet is distributed via Web sites. Web sites vary widely in quality of information and validity of sources.

Weblogs / Blogs: A rather recent development in Web technology, weblogs or blogs are a type of interactive journal where writers post and readers respond. They vary widely in quality of information and validity of sources. For example, many prestigious journalists and public figures may have blogs, which may be more credible of a blog than most.

Message boards, Discussion lists, and Chat rooms: Discussion lists, chat rooms, and message boards exist for all kinds of disciplines both in and outside of the university. However, plenty of boards exist that are rather unhelpful and poorly researched.

Web Media: The Internet has a multitude of multimedia resources including online broadcasts and news, images, audio files, and interactive Web sites.

from Purdue OWL c. 2013

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Critical Assessment

OPVL is an effective tool to analyze primary and secondary source documents.

Origin

Origin is where the source comes from.

  • Who is the author/artist?
  • What date it was written/finished?
  • In which country the author/artist was born?
  • Where was the source was produced?
  • In, which format (newspaper, book, letter, etc.), was the source first presented?
  • Is the source a primary or secondary source?
  • What was the historic context in which the source was created?
  • Is there anything known about the author that is pertinent to the evaluation?

Purpose

Purpose is where you have to put yourself in the author/artist's shoes. The purpose should relate to the origin of the source.

  • What do you think the author was trying to communicate to readers?
  • What ideas/feelings was the author trying to express/evoke? What was the intent of the author?
  • Why did the author create this document?  Why does it exist?
  • Who is the intended audience of this source?
  • The purpose is especially important when it comes to pieces of propaganda as sources.

Value

Value is how valuable this source is. Basically it's linked to the amount of bias in the source:  the more bias = the less valuable (usually). Primary sources are obviously more valuable than secondary/tertiary ones.

  • What value does this source have that might not be available elsewhere?
  • What can one tell about the author/time period because of this source?
  • What was going on in history when this source was created? What new information does this piece bring to the understanding of the topic?

Limitations

Limitations is also linked to bias, each source will be at least a little biased and thus they are limited by that. Do not state bias alone as a limitation. All sources have bias.

  • Has the source has been translated from the original? (i.e., Hitler's diary entry was  translated into English by a historian and you're using the historian's book as a source)  If so, then the language difference will be another source of inaccuracy and a limitation.
  • What information was not available to the author when the source was created?
  • Did the author get the information from a reliable source?
  • Does the author have reason to emphasize certain facts over other facts?  How might the source be different if it were presented to another audience?
  • What specific information might the author has chosen to leave out?
  • Does the author concede that a certain point as is inconvenient for the author to admit?
  • How might the historical context in which the document was created influence the interpretation of the document?

The following grid can help you understand OPVL by various types of sources.

This is not ALL you need to do for an OPVL, just examples.

 

Type of Document

Origin

Purpose

Value

Limitation

Diary

Primary, by author for author, rarely published

To keep memories for later (sometimes with eye to publication)

Eyewitness to event and usually written immediately of shortly after occurred, rarely lie to oneself

Only one person’s view, there will be perspective issues, may be intended for publication therefore can even lie to oneself

Reminiscence

Primary, by author or interviewee

To offer an eyewitnesses’ perspective on an event

Eyewitness

Length of time between events and recollection can lead to loss of info, or changing of story, always perspective issues to be considered

Monograph

Usually by expert (often academic historian)

To educate colleagues, students, and the public (can be for monetary gain or promotion file)

Usually many years of primary research in archives and thorough knowledge of secondary works on topic

Always perspective issues, usually not an eyewitness, can err deliberately or accidently, not vey useful for quick overview since it will contain many pages of extraneous issues

General Text

Secondary, usually done by a panel of experts on country or topic

To educate students

Offers quick overview for student seeking easy info

Usually NOT an expert on every topic in text so there may be gaps and errors, may be too brief

Cartoon

Primary, done by artist for public at that time

To educate, entertain, and often to sell newspapers or magazines

Offer at least one person’s perspective on issue of the time, event

Don’t know how widespread it is, often exaggeration used for comic effect

Speech

Primary

For public usually

Offers official view of speaker, it is what audience hears

May not be real views of the speaker, speeches are designed to sway opinion

Internal Memo

Primary

For internal examination amongst officials of government depts.

Usually do not lie, so it is official view like a speech but private thoughts are often given too

Do not know what outsiders’ know, only what officials are saying to each other, may be fabricated

Primary Source Document: Someone who is the “first person” creates primary sources; these documents can also be called “original source documents”.  The author or creator is presenting original materials as a result of discovery or to share new information or opinions. Others have not filtered primary documents through interpretation or evaluation. In order to get a complete picture of an event or era, it is necessary to consult multiple—and often contradictory—sources.  (i.e., letters, journals, interviews, speeches, photos, paintings, etc.)

Secondary Source Documents: Materials that are produced with the benefit of hindsight and materials that filter primary sources through interpretation or evaluation. Books commenting on a historical incident in history are secondary sources. Political cartoons can be tricky because they can be considered either primary or secondary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chart created by Grossmont College Library

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