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Learn the Library

This guide will introduce you how to use the library to do basic research.

Can't I just Google it?

Using Google or Wikipedia is a common first step. BUT, consider these points:

  • Who wrote it? Do they know what they are talking about? When was it written?
  • Does the writer show where they got their ideas? i.e. are they citing their sources?
  • Anyone can edit a Wikipedia article. Are you sure what's written there is authoritative?

Your professor or instructor will probably not recognize any Google result webpage or Wikipedia entry as academic. Unless you can trust the authority of the work. e.g. blog post by an well-known researcher in the discipline.

Using these methods to explore your topic and develop your research question is considered pre-research and is totally acceptable for the beginning of a project. After this, move on to finding academic sources to use in your work

How to Evaluate Sources

As you find academic sources, how do you decide if it’s credible enough to use? We need to think critically about the sources we use and if we want to build our research off these sources.

One way to do this is the ACT UP framework, created by librarian Dawn Stahura of Salem State University.  You can read her work here. 

A - Author. Who wrote this? What else have they written? For websites, locate the 'About Us' section. Has the website or any of the authors been reported as a source of fake news? Intention is everything. What motivated them to write this? 

C- Created. When was this created? When was it originally created? This might be different from when it was published. Do you need to find more current, up-to-date information? If you are on a website, when was the last time it was updated?

T- Truth. How accurate is this information? Can you verify any of their claims in other sources? Just because the article or source comes from a reputable site does not mean the site cannot contain misinformation. 

U- Unbiased. We all have biases. We are looking for resources that are impartial.  Is the information presented to sway the audience to a particular point of view? 

P- Privilege.  There are many different forms of privilige in academic. For the author, are they the only folx that research and write about the topic? People/cultures/ideas that have been traditionally left out of traditional research or have been exploited by traditional research. Whose voice is missing from the resource? 

You may already be aware that there is inherent privilege in the publishing industry. Specifically in academia, you may have noticed that the majority of published scholarly papers are written by white scholars and peer-reviewed by white peers. While these scholarly resources are valuable, it does mean that non-white scholars do not have the same privilege and opportunity to publish their work, meaning that you are missing out on an important segment of research.

The information in this box has been created by Dawn Stahura.  The ACT UP evaluation method was created by Dawn in 2017.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

What is authority?

Authority related to the author/creators credibility and expertise. Authority also includes the credibility and reliability of the research process used in the creation of the work and how it meets your research need. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Is the author an expert in the field? Do they appear to have degrees in this area? Are they working with/for a university?
  • Are the research methods ethical and respectful to the population in the research?
  • Where did I find this information? Was it in a reliable resource?
  • Does it have all the components of a good research? What does it not report on that other papers do?
  • How does this help me with my research need or question?

In most academic disciplines you want to look for authority by checking:

  • Work that has been published in a scholarly resource (i.e. Peer Reviewed Journal)
  • Information about the authors' credentials and degrees and/or affiliation with an institution
  • Articles that are longer (at least 10 pages) and include components like: abstract, keywords, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and references
  • The resource uses specialized language

In some disciplines (e.g. Law, Education, Business) you may look for: 

  • Resources written by experts in the field
  • Experts may not always have academic credentials but are usually experienced practitioners in the field (e.g. teachers, lawyers, business leaders)
  • Information from scholarly (but not always peer-reviewed) sources such as trade publications
  • Work uses specialized language

Peer Review Process