As you search for information online, you’re going to find a lot of different results from a lot of different sources! Web sites, books, journal articles, conference proceedings, videos, images – the list is endless!
There will be conflicting opinions, contradictory facts, unresolved arguments, questionable data, and maybe some good old misinformation and fake news. It’s the world that we live in now, and as an independent researcher, you’re going to have to learn to deal with it.
So what can you do? Read on to find out more…
It’s easy to find information, but much more difficult to critically evaluate it. This means scanning the information in front of you and working out if it is trustworthy, appropriate, accurate, and relevant for the type of work you’re doing. To help, there are six simple questions you can ask:
Academic information is usually written by subject experts and reviewed by other experts (or peers) in the field before they are published. This peer-review process ensures the information you read has been checked for quality, importance and originality – and can be trusted and relied upon to support and evidence your own work.
Here’s a great tip. When performing a search in Library Search or one of your subject databases, you can limit your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed publications.
Your lecturers and tutors will usually expect you to use academic information in your work: authoritative sources such as textbooks and peer-reviewed journal articles. However, there are times when 'non-academic' sources such as newspapers, videos or blogs are also useful. Such material won't generally have been through an academic-type peer-review process, so take particular care to demonstrate that you have critically evaluated it.