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Sociology: Families - SOCI 2043: Evaluating Sources

This research guide will provide you with pointers which should help you better conduct your research in Sociology.

Is It Credible?

Not sure whether the article you just found is suitable for your paper? Consider the following criteria:

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

Authority: The source of the information.

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content.

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

The Five W's

Another way to think about the reliability of a source is to ask the following:

Who wrote the article? Think about the author's qualifications, education, profession, etc.

What does the article say? Does the content address the topic of your paper? Is it written at an appropriate level?

When was the article published? Is it current or out-of-date?

Where was the article published? Did it run in a popular magazine or a scholarly publication? What kind of website is hosting this information?

Why was the article written? Does the author have an agenda or bias?

Commercial Websites

PRO:

  • Easy to find using Google
  • Often have higher editorial and design standards than personal websites
  • Often managed by professional writers and designers

CON:

  • Commercial interests come first
  • Articles are written for general audiences
  • Bylines often missing and works rarely cited

Wikipedia

PRO:

  • Articles easy to find using the site’s search field or Google
  • Articles about current events updated frequently
  • Best articles are edited by a crowd of interested and informed writers

CON:

  • Editorial standards set by community; minimal oversight from Wikipedia staff
  • Articles on obscure topics can go untouched for months
  • Non-experts have just as much editorial control as experts
  • Worst articles are poorly written and poorly sourced

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