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Social Work - Lane Worley: Before you start your research...

How do you know what kind of sources to look for?

Some questions to ask yourself before you start your research:

  • Do I know enough about my topic to choose meaningful search terms?
    • Reference books such as encyclopedias are useful sources for learning basics about a topic before starting your research.
  • Does it matter how old your sources are?  
    • Should you use sources dating from the beginning of time to the present? 
    • Do you only want the most current information?
  • How specific is your topic? 
    • ​Are you giving a broad overview of the topic?
    • Do you need in-depth research on the topic?
  • Who counts as a credible writer on this topic?
    • Does the writer need to be an expert in the field?  What kind of credentials will prove that this person is an expert?
    • Is it okay for the writer to be a non-expert who cites his/her sources well?

Find basic information about your topic

The Credo database contains electronic versions of reference books on many subjects.

Enter your topic into the box below to find articles with basic information about your topic.

Evaluating periodical sources

Each of these publication types have strengths and weaknesses depending on the type of information you are seeking.

  • Internet sites:
    • Potentially the most current information available.
    • Writers can be anyone.
    • Information may or may not be vetted -- you must evaluate carefully for reliability.
    • Varied publication schedule.
    • Content may be influenced by advertisers.
  • Newspapers:
    • Provides very current information.
    • Best source for local news and events.
    • Writers are usually journalists, not experts in the field.
    • Quick publication deadlines may prevent writers from guaranteeing accuracy.
    • Published daily or weekly
    • Content may be influenced by advertisers.
  • Popular magazines:
    • Geared to the popular reader, usually at a lower reading level than trade or scholarly materials.
    • Writers are usually journalists, not experts in the field.
    • Published weekly or monthly
    • Content may  be influenced by advertisers.
  • Trade publications:
    • Geared toward professionals in a certain field.
    • May contain professional association or continuing education resources
    • May contain job search resources
    • Usually published monthly
    • Ads are usually limited to products and services within the field of interest.
  • Scholarly or Peer-reviewed publications:
    • Articles are written and edited by experts in the field.
    • Higher reading level ; less attention to readability, more attention to content.
    • Slower publication rate -- Usually quarterly or biannually.
    • Citations should show which other researchers are important in this area of research.

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