The type of information sources you use will depend upon your research topic and the requirements of your research project.
Ask yourself these questions to determine the types of information sources most useful for your research:
Think about the types of information you need to find on your topic.
IF YOU NEED:
You should always use a variety of sources in your research so that you get the best, most complete and current information and can validate information across different sources.
Evaluating information sources is critical to the process of academic research. Make sure that you are reading and presenting accurate information.
Use the PARCA Test to critically evaluate your sources and determine in what way they might be useful (or not) for your research.
Primary sources, containing firsthand knowledge, observation or information are created when an event is currently happening. Examples of primary sources include:
Secondary sources are written after an event has occurred, sometimes many years later. These sources summarize or analyze the information from primary sources. Secondary source examples include:
The internet is a valuable information source, but it is also full of misinformation. Here are a few questions that can help you determine the reliability of a website and its appropriateness for your research.
What is the domain of the website?
Typically, content on domains with “.edu,” “.org” or “.gov” are from more legitimate sources than content from “.com.”
What is the purpose of the information?
Make sure the website doesn’t promote a product or an ideology or present an organization bias.
Who is the author, publisher, or source? Are they an authority on the subject?
Look for the author’s identity and also any information about their educational background, professional credentials, etc.
Does the information relate to your topic? (relevance)
Make sure that the web pages are relevant to your research and contain information that is thorough and substantial.
How current is the information?
Look for the date of publication to ensure that information presented is up-to-date.
How accurate/truthful is the content?
Compare the web page to related sources, electronic or print, for assistance in determining its accuracy. Look for factual information (historical or statistical), research/fieldwork observations, as well as citations/footnotes and list of references/bibliography.
For more information on this subject, see our guide on Identifying Fake News.