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DIY: Research Help

A continually evolving suite of research help content focused on helping you navigate the research process.

Man asking "Are my resources good for my research?"

With so many different different types of resources that could be a potential resource for your paper or project, how do you know which ones you should use? 

Ask your instructor. Check your assignment.

First, we strongly recommend asking your instructor and checking your assignment:

  • Are you required to only use one or more specific types of resources such as academic journals, books, websites, videos, et cetera? Evaluate the resources you found and remove any that are not from the type of resource you must use.
  • Are you restricted from using a specific type of resource? Evaluate the resources you found and remove any that are from the type of resource you can't use.
  • Do you need to use peer reviewed or academic resources? Many of the library's databases have a filter option that you can use to limit the resources in your results list to these types of resources.

Once you've determined that the resources you found are the type you want or need to use, the next step is to evaluate each one's content. Below are some evaluation tools and tips to assist you in this process. Need help or have questions with evaluating your resources? Ask a librarian! 

Evaluation Tools: RADAR (Use for all resources)

Radar Method (Google Slides)

Identifying Stakeholders

A stakeholder is someone who has an investment or interest in a given topic or issue. For instance, if the topic is healthcare, some stakeholders would be:

  •     Doctors
  •     Patients
  •     Insurance companies
  •     Pharmaceutical companies
  •     The government


Knowing who the stakeholders are allows you to evaluate why the information was produced, and who it is trying to influence. (For instance is an article written by a research physician about a new drug going to have the same stakeholders as an article written by the pharmaceutical company that produces that drug?)

If you're not sure who the stakeholders may be for an issue:

  •     Visit Issues and Controversies to learn more about the issue
  •     Read articles from a general database like Academic Search Ultimate
  •     Visit reputable news sites and read current news on the topic
  •     Identify the author's connection to the topic

Is it a hoax?

Is it biased?

Most news sources won't say whether they hold a liberal or a conservative bias, but a bias in reporting can drastically alter the way the media reports a story. These sites help determine actual facts and media bias.

Evaluating Websites

Evaluating websites can be a tricky business. Whereas books and articles clearly state authors, and very often their credentials and sources, the web is an open content medium, meaning ANYone can publish ANYthing. This includes highly regarded professionals and experts, people trying to sell you something (a product, an opinion, an agenda), and people just using the web as a place to post their opinions.

It takes a careful eye to determine if content on the web is reliable enough to cite in an academic paper. Some important considerations:

  • Authority - Who wrote the page and what are their credentials?
  • Accuracy - Is the information on the page actually correct? How can you tell?
  • Objectivity - Is the page expressing an opinion, or trying to sell you something?
  • Currency - When was the last time this information was updated?
  • Coverage - How in-depth is the content and to what other content does it link?

WAILing an Article

Another device you can use to evaluate information is the WAILing method:

W: Word Choice

A: Adjectives, Adverbs

I: Information Provided

L: Left Out What?

Word choice shapes and helps you identify the bias of the author. Finding adjectives and adverbs the author used, fleshes out the meaning of the story. Ask yourself what information is provided and then what information is left out? Sometimes you can’t find what’s left out unless you’ve read multiple stories. This is particularly helpful when you are reading news articles but it also forms the foundation of a healthy Literature Review.