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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 citation styles, how do you know which one is right for your paper? 

Ask your instructor. Check your assignment.

First, we strongly recommend asking your instructor. There are several factors which go into determining the appropriate citation style, including discipline (priorities in an English class might differ from those of a Psychology class, for example), academic expectations (papers intended for publication might be subject to different standards than mid-term papers), the research aims of an assignment, and the individual preference of your instructor. 

The most important thing to consider is citing correctly and avoiding plagiarism.

Evaluation Tools: RADAR

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?