Back To CourseCollege Physics: Help & Review
25 chapters | 266 lessons
As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over 75,000 lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.Free 5-day trial
Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.
It's finally happened. You've been asked to write a research paper. Chances are this is not something you've been looking forward to. You imagine an overwhelming process ahead. Then, you narrow down a topic. With an idea in your head, things seem a bit more manageable, at least until you start looking for sources. How do you know which sources are reliable and relevant to your topic?
The majority of your research is likely to be from one of two main types of sources: print sources and web sources. In this lesson, we're going to examine some characteristics of print and web sources. Then, we'll look at the criteria for evaluating their usefulness, all of which will help you be better able to determine a source's reliability and relevance to your project.
A print source is exactly as its name suggests - material that has been printed and can be produced in a hard copy. Examples of print sources are books, magazines, scholarly journals, and newspapers. For the purpose of a research paper, automatically weed out any works of fiction. This means you will be looking at non-fiction, informational print sources. Non-fiction print sources can vary widely in the audience they target or the amount of information they provide. Imagine the difference between a local newspaper report on air quality compared to a research study on air quality published in a scholarly journal.
However, printed sources have one benefit. They generally have been through some type of critical review process that prevents poor material from reaching the library shelves. In other words, some type of quality control has typically taken place in order for publication to occur. Unfortunately, this doesn't give you the green light to use any book or magazine you find in a library. You must still evaluate how relevant a print resource is to your topic as well as its reliability.
Web sources include anything you can find on the Internet, which contains a wealth of high-quality information if you know where to look. Some web sources are databases of scholarly articles. These databases are a great place to find information. Other web sources can be self-published with unclear origins.
There is little quality control over the information you find, and anyone with access to the Internet can publish online. This makes it difficult to avoid bias or inaccuracies. It can also be hard to locate authors and references. Because of these concerns, you cannot assume that information on the web is accurate. Each web page must be critically examined.
As mentioned earlier, you need to be able to evaluate sources before you use the information they contain. How do you review sources to determine if they're reliable and suited for your research project? Five criteria can be considered to help you make your decision: authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage. These criteria are known by the acronym AAOCC.
Authority refers to who authored, or created, the content you are looking at and how qualified that person is to provide the information. Is the author a professor at MIT or a high school student interested in engineering? The more credentials the author has related to the content, the better the source.
Accuracy refers to the quality of the content provided by the source. Is the information specific or general? Does it provide supporting data? Can the information be verified elsewhere? Good sources provide specific, verifiable information with lots of supporting data.
Objectivity refers to how impartial the author is. Does the author seem to use biased language? Is the source receiving payment for advertising? Is there a discussion of more than one point of view? The most objective source will not excessively favor a particular viewpoint, will not be influenced by sponsorship, and will provide information from different viewpoints.
Currency refers to how current the information is. If you're writing a research paper for a physics class, which would be more relevant, a research study published in 1960 or a research study published in 2010? In most cases, the following will apply: the more recent the information, the better the source. Some sources used in fields such as humanities are an exception. If a study from many years ago is essential to your topic, it can be used.
Coverage refers to how well the source covers the topic you are researching. Does the source go in-depth on your topic or does it mention it in passing? Are all of your questions answered by the source? The more information and detail the source provides, the better it is.
Each of the five criteria should be considered separately and then again as a whole. If a source is very poorly represented in any one of the categories, you probably want to throw it out. On the other hand, you may find use for a source that falls a bit short in only one area. For example, if you're writing a research paper comparing and contrasting public opinion on shark attacks, it might be useful to include slightly biased opinions on each side of the argument. Know your topic, consider AAOCC, and judge accordingly.
Two main types of sources are used for the majority of research: print sources and web sources. Print sources, those that have published in a hardcopy such as books or newspapers, typically have the benefit of some type of quality control prior to publication. Web sources, materials that can be found on the Internet, are not necessarily checked for accuracy before the information is put online. Regardless of where you obtain the information, you must evaluate it to determine how relevant and reliable it is to your research.
Using the AAOCC criteria will help you make your determination. AAOCC stands for authority, accuracy, objectivity, currency, and coverage. Authority is the qualification of the author. The quality of the content is its accuracy. Objectivity refers to whether or not a source contains bias. Currency is how up to date the source is, and coverage is how well the source covers your research topic. Each of these criteria should be considered individually and as a whole before you judge whether or not you have a valid source of information.
To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account
Already a member? Log InBack
Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.
To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page
Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.
Back To CourseCollege Physics: Help & Review
25 chapters | 266 lessons