When conducting research it is important that the information you’re collecting is credible. Research ethics are a huge deal in schools, science, and the business world, among others. However, with all the information available on the web, it’s hard to tell what is a reliable source to use in research. After all, Wikipedia is good enough for personal research, and a dictionary is an excellent source for personal information, but you can’t use these for a research paper. Instead, you have to look for scholarly sources, which are often found in journal articles. You can also use websites, but…make sure you evaluate them for credibility. Here are some questions you should ask when considering a site for your research:
Is the author credible?
Is the article an editorial or other opinion piece? Does the author have a history publishing this sort of material and credentials or references to back them up? Are there well known organizations supporting the site?
Does the source have a reputation for honesty?
Is the website from an established organization? Could you corroborate the information if necessary?
Does it seem like the website or the website’s sources may be biased?
Make sure you’re using an unbiased site. If you’re not, make sure you’re also reading websites that counter them. You need balance in research, otherwise your research is skewed, inaccurate, and invalid. Check supporting organizations, funding, and the author’s background if available.
What is the date of the material? Is it still relevant?
You’re not going to cite a piece written in the 50s to address depression in teenagers, not unless you really don’t care about accuracy. Things change, information becomes inaccurate or new information becomes available. Make sure you’re looking for and using the most up-to-date and accurate information you can find.
What is the purpose of the website?
Is it promotional? This can indicate bias. Is it informational, informing people or scientific peers of new research or research results? Is it posted to express opinion? Check the purpose of the website to help detect bias and reliability. A website meant as a source of information will be less biased than a promotional site, and thus should be considered more seriously than the latter. Also, consider your audience. Will they appreciate a promotional site or persuasive site as a reference? What does that say about you and your research?
Do the sites claims hold up?
After doing your research, does the information on the website still hold up? Do the claims still sound convincing and true even after you’ve read both sides or further information on the subject matter? Do research results sound probable? What are critics and peers saying about it?
Are references or backing information available?
Take a look at what sources were used. Where did the author’s information come from? Did he/she use credible sources? This does matter, so make sure you’re taking this into account.
As you may have noticed, the credibility of your research relies on the credibility and validity of the research you did. Knowing how to choose the right sources can make all the difference in a college research paper, a business or science research project, or even research for personal information (such as research on medical conditions or travel).