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Doing Research

An introduction to library research and finding the best sources.

Is it any good?

Searching is easy. Picking the right articles out of your search results is harder.

Save time.  Read the article title and abstract carefully.  The major points of the article will be there.

Is the source high quality?

  • Peer-reviewed articles are usually better in their field.
  • How do the authors know what they know?  What is the base for the claims they make?
  • Is it clear and logical? Does it make sense?
  • Does it fit with other things you know about the topic?  Or if it challenges them, are the claims backed up by the evidence presented?
  • Is it a primary source (did the experiment, was there at the time, writing from their own knowledge) or a secondary source (putting together information from other sources, not directly)?
  • Has anyone else cited this article?  If many people found it worth reading and using, that's a good sign.  (Don't conclude anything from an absence of citations -- even if no one else has noticed it, it might be perfect for you.)

Des it meet your needs

  • Does it cover your topic?  Or is it related to what you need? Some articles excite you enough to change your topic, other times you need to stay focused on the current one.
  • Does it provide additional information?  Is it something you can't get from other sources?
  • Can you understand it?  It won't help if you can't make heads or tails of it.

Some Useful Links

Here are some suggestions for how to go about evaluating things you find.