4 Smart Steps to Improve Your Sources for Research
We all know that almost all information is at our fingertips. Did you get lost on your way to the local coffeeshop to meet up with your study group? Not to worry, just reach for your smartphone and check Google Maps. Did you forget what time the movie you want to watch with your best friend starts? No big deal, simply grab your mobile device and check for the screen times. We’ve all been dependent on online solutions in our day-to-day life that we’ve probably adopted that thinking, “If it’s online, it must be true.”
Well, hold on to that thought because that is certainly a myth. We should be smarter in verifying our sources when there is more at stake like when we are doing our research paper or completing our school requirements. You don’t want to appear like a fool in front of your classmates or teachers/instructors. So how exactly do you distinguish credible sources from dubious ones? Here are 4 easy steps:
Create an outline of what you need to research for.
Before going online to do research, have an outline ready on what you feel is necessary to complete your paper or thesis. Understand why you are seeking the information and assess whether you need facts, opinions, interpretations, or statistics. Are you aiming to corroborate or dispute a theory or idea? Or are you targeting to have your own opinion on a theory or idea? Knowing these things beforehand will help you choose the right path to do your research.
Choose your sources carefully.
Wikipedia might be a good site to go to when you’re short of celebrity trivia, however, it’s certainly not the place to go to when you want to know the recent effects of global climate in Asia or the recent health food trends in North America. In these cases, it’s always smart to rely on websites that are both familiar to you and are highly respectable such as Globe and Mail, the New York Times, or Washington Post and academic journals. Be careful though because some fake websites assume the look of trusted websites by a difference of a few letters in spelling in their domain name or try to appear legitimate.
Check for the information in as many reliable websites as you can.
There used to be a time when respected websites like CNN feature stories that are factual and verified 100% of the time. Well, times are a-changing. What used to be credible before may not be credible now, so it’s best to check for the information you’re looking for in as many respected websites as you can. Think of it as something similar to channel surfing when you want to find something interesting to watch. If you find a common thread among the sources you read, then chances are, you are on the safe side.
Dig deep into the author’s credentials.
Majority of the time, articles indicate the writer or author or a news agency like the Canadian Press or Reuters. When you don’t see either of these, it might very well be a red flag. If you do see a writer or author that you’re not familiar with, it’s best to find out what you can about the individual. Check if the qualifications are specified, links to information about title or position, contact information such as email address or social networking identities, and affiliations with reputable institutions or organizations. You can also check if the author or writer has published other articles. If so, you are in the clear, and if not, better look for information somewhere else.
While it is true that classifying sources as credible and reliable takes time and effort, it will be worthwhile on your part once you hand in your paper. You’ve made sure what you’ve gathered from the Internet is factual and correct and from a trustworthy source of information too so you will know your grade will be in good hands.