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Local Issues: General Research Guide: Smart Web

Making your research relevant by focusing topics close to home.

Who Cares?

Just as you listed keywords related to your topic, make a list of the people or organizations who are stakeholders on your issue.  Searching their websites might yield valuable information, but beware of bias!

Safer Web Choices

If your professor says that you may use Internet sources, it's up to you to evaluate whether the websites are acceptable for academic research.

These domains will be more likely to contain reliable information:

.gov = government sites which often have statistics and articles produced with funding from your tax dollars.  These are not free of bias, depending on those currently managing the site.

.edu = educational institutions. Level of expertise is uneven ranging from the latest paper of a PhD in Organizational Behavior to a book report by a 9th grader.

.org = organizations, sometimes professional organizations. Many have articles and links to work done in their group.

 Here's a Google search tip:  add site:.  and the domain name of a trusted site.  Example:  "air pollution" site:.epa.gov

Web Evaluation

Purpose

Uing the Internet for academic purposes is far different than seeking entertainment or commercial websites.  For a site to be acceptable on assignments, be sure it passes the test in each of these areas.

Accuracy

  • Does the information build on/cite other information sources?
  • Can you verify the information in another source?
  • How does the information compare with what you already know?
  • Most other criteria also have to do with accuracy!

 Authority

  • Is the author identified?
  • Does the author have expertise in the area?
  • Is contact information given?

Bias

  • What goals/objectives does this page meet?  Is it to inform/instruct or persuade/sell?
  • What opinions (if any) are expressed by the author?
  • Are other viewpoints acknowledged?
  • Who sponsors the information?

Currency

  • When was it produced?
  • When was it updated?
  • How up-to-date are the sources cited?
  • How up-to-date are the links (if any)?
  • Dead links are a sign of neglect

Coverage

  • Is it all images or a balance of text and images?
  • Is the page/site organized in a useful way?
  • On topic?
  • Appropriate scope?
  • How detailed is the information?

Stats!

Accurate numbers can be very persuasive in a speech or paper.  Check out these federal portals for all kinds of information:

fedstats.gov

Use the topical drop down box on the right or browse the Topics A-Z link.

Statistical Abstract of the United States

Tables and reports based on census data and organized by many topics.

Census Information

Use the American FactFinder to extract info from 2010 census data..

Questions? Ask a Librarian!



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