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Assignment | Chemistry Essay (Mayadunne): Selecting Your Sources

Fall 2018 | CHEM 1411 | Professor Mayadunne

Source Types: Reliability Spectrum

Reliability of sources

As you are Getting Started on research we recommend information sources that contain topic overviews, such as Credo Reference. This is "good information" that is credible but not focused on one aspect of the topic. Knowing your topic and your focus prepares you for digging deeper into scholarly information sources that are often peer-reviewed. The spectrum above places good information in the reliability range. Notice, however, that scholarly content is most reliable and is at the tip of the pyramid (see explanation below). 

When seeking information beware of these measures of reliability. When striking out into the web wilderness, critically evaluate every source you find using the CRAAP test. Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose.

Scholarly Sources: What To Know

Illustration representing a subset. A turqouise square has a smaller green square inside it.All scholarly sources are good; not all good sources are scholarly.

A New York Times article or government statistics are (probably) great, wonderful, reliable sources, full of credibility and accuracy and just the kinds of information you should trust.

They are not, however, "scholarly."

Levels of quality in information: scholarly is a much smaller segment than generally good information, which of course is a smaller segment than information in general.Scholarly is a very specific type of good, credible, reliable information source.

Scholarly sources are written by formally trained and educated experts in a field. They tend to provide an in-depth look at a very specific topic (as opposed to an overview or summary) and always have lots of sources cited to back them up. They are published by professional or academic organizations.

Some even go through a peer-review process before publication, through which other experts critically evaluate the content and evidence of an article.


Source Evaluation Aid

Research Companion has a Source Evaluation Aid tool to help you determine important information about websites, periodicals, and books like who publishes them or if they're a known bad actor.

Evaluating Information

CRAAP test factors: Currency, Relevance, Accuracy, Authority, Purpose

The Three Rs

Is your source
Recent? Reliable? Relevant?

Is this source up-to-date? Is it about my topic, and does it go into enough depth? Does it come from an authoritative source? Is the information accurate (and are there citations given to back it up)? And why was this information written in the first place?