How to find the best credible resources

Written by Courtney Wong

Background

According to the document published by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) , previously, students would need to go to the library to find credible resources published by academic publishing houses. However, with the advancements in technology, students are now able to use the internet to find information published by anyone. This includes individuals, groups and organisation but there is no guarantee that the information provided is correct. That is why it is extremely important for students to confirm the information is correct, as well as the sources being utilised, are credible.

Effective Research

Whether it be websites, books or images, a thorough evaluation should be conducted to decide if the resource is worthy to be used in an assessment. This includes first answering various questions such as:

Is the source reputable and is the author who they say they are?

The identities of authors who write books or journals are identified by publishers, thus they are credible and should be non-biased. However, it is impossible to ensure this for authors of websites who can claim to be anyone they want, which brings me to my next question.

Is the author credible?

As stated by the University System of Maryland, credentials of the authors and their academic institution they are linked to are checked by publishers and usually listed in books and journal articles. However, as stated above, anyone can say that they have qualifications and write any topic regardless of if the information is correct. Thus, it is important to check that the author is well-known in the topic they are discussing and can be easily identifiable.

Is the information based on proper scientific research?

Almost all academic books and journals have a reference list on which the information is based on. This would also occur for websites that have used information from someone who has the correct knowledge on the topic. However, if there are no references or links to other sources, there is no guarantee that the information is accurate. If this is the case, it is better to find another resource that does have reliable information.

Is the information up to date?

Most books and journal articles will show the date it was published. Though, not all websites will show when they were published or last updated. As a result, the information that is being provided may be out of date. Depending on the assessment, it best to use the most recent and trustworthy resources to ensure the information is current.

Evaluating websites

Due to websites being the top resource utilised in assignments, it will be used as an example to discuss techniques on how to deduce if the information is suitable, as cited by QUT.

Step one: Look at the Uniform Resource Locator (URL)

The web domain can indicate what type of organisation created the website. Government, non-profit and education websites are almost always correct. However, company and individual websites can be inaccurate, thus it is best to avoid them.

Step two: Look at who published the resource

The publisher is usually the organisation that controls the website and is often part of the website address. It is crucial to find reliable resources to ensure the information is accurate for any assessments and in general. If you are unsure of the website, it is best to check the ‘Home page’ or ‘About Us’ section to confirm it is a suitable web page that can be used as a reference.

Step three: Look at who wrote the resource?

The author is generally cited at the top or bottom of the webpage. Nevertheless, in the instance where there is no personal author, the organisation that published the web page will act as the reference. Furthermore, the credentials of the author should be reviewed to ensure they have the correct educational qualifications for the topic being discussed. This is extremely vital when using websites as anyone can claim they have the qualifications.

Step four: Check the date

Similarly to the author, the date should be evident at the top or bottom of the web page. When looking for the best credible resource, the information should be as up to date as possible to ensure the topic discussed is current.

Step five: Check the references

As stated above, anyone can write anything they want and be whoever they want. Hence, it is a good idea to check the information provided is reputable. This can be cross-referenced by Google or Google Scholar.

Step six: Understand the purpose of the resource

There are multiple reasons as to why a website may exist. This includes providing information for the reader, persuading the reader to a certain view point or to sell something. Thus, it is important to understand the purpose of the web page so that the information can be used correctly. Generally, businesses will have a website to sell something whereas, personal websites such as blogs are used by individuals to express their opinions and often bias. Nevertheless, there are websites that are dedicated to providing information, which is often government, non-profit organisations and educational.  

After undertaking these steps, the best credible resources can be found. In addition, websites that I have personally found to be helpful when researching for assignments include Google Scholar, Factiva and the QUT library.

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