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Undergraduate Help - All Text: Determining Good Sources

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Determining Good Sources

How to Find Peer Reviewed Sources

Get Subject Specific Help

Browse Subject Listings to Contact a Subject Expert

Determining Good Sources

Searching for good sources for your assignments can be overwhelming.  Luckily, there are some tools and techniques available to help sort the good from the bad. 

When we say that a source is "good," we say that it has validity. But how can you determine if the source you're consulting is valid? Ask yourself these questions when you’re considering a source:

  • Who is the author and what are his or her qualifications?
  • Do they represent an organization?
  • What’s the organization's mission and goals? If you're unsure, try a Google search on the author or their organization. See what you can learn about them and any potential biases. 
  • Where does the information come from? If the source includes references, look at a few.
  • Do they look like reliable sources of information?
  • Does it look like the author is citing correctly? 

If the source you've found doesn't have references, that’s a warning sign. See if you can fact check the information in other ways. Try a Google search of the expert's name and see what information you can find. 

A scholarly source should make answers to these questions obvious. A scholarly source is written by an expert in the field and usually includes references. Scholarly sources generally go through "peer review." They’re vetted by one or more scholars before publication. Scholarly sources have the highest validity. They also tend to be more complex.

You may find that government resources fit your topic. Usually, these will be by departments or agencies rather than individual authors. Ask the same questions of these as with any other kind of source. They are valid sources and, generally speaking, can be fact checked and will have references.

There are other sources that you’ll find, but as long as you can identify who wrote them and where they come from you’ll be halfway there. The ability to assess sources is a skill that can be learned.

If you don’t feel comfortable with a source, stick to scholarly sources. They’ll be valid and you can safely use them in your assignments. 

How to Find Peer Reviewed Sources

By default, One Stop Search looks for any articles or books based on your search terms. Sometimes, your assignments specify that you need peer reviewed sources.

Peer review means different things in different disciplines, but basically it implies that the article has gone through a rigorous review process by experts before it is deemed suitable for publication.

To find peer reviewed articles, first run a simple search in One Stop Search using terms that will bring up a list of relevant results.

In this case, we see a list of books and articles. Only journals are said to be peer reviewed, not books.

Look on the left hand side of the screen and you should see a heading that reads "Show Only," with one or more options below it. Click the one that reads "Peer-reviewed Journals." You’ll notice that it shows a number on the right hand side. This is an approximate count of results that you’ll get when you click on it. You’ll notice that it is a lower number than the results you get from a simple search. Only some of your first search’s results are from Peer-reviewed journals. 

Your results should show only articles from peer-reviewed journals now. Any of these should satisfy your academic requirements. 

Get Subject Specific Help

If you’re looking for subject specific help, each librarian has put together a page featuring information for your discipline, called a Subject Guide. 

Within each guide, you’ll find lists of important resources, contact information for the subject librarian, and tips for performing research in that area. 

To get started, navigate to the libraries’ homepage –

Select the Subject Guides button in the One Stop Search area.

This page provides several options for finding and navigating to subject guides. 

The easiest way to find a guide is to type in the subject area you’re looking for. 

Use broad terms – for example, if you’re looking for information on Personality Psychology, type in "Psychology".  

For information on Southeast Asian History, use "History". 

In our example, we’ll use History. There are several results for History. The bullet points underneath link to specific sub-pages within that guide. Click on the homepage for History.

Each subject guide will list various books, databases, and other resources that are relevant to your discipline. 
Many librarians also have links to helpful writing and citation resources. You can also find out who your subject librarian is and schedule an appointment with them. 

If you need help with making an appointment, check out our tutorial or help video on Scheduling an Appointment.