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Regent University - Library

Eng 102 Research & Academic Writing: Evaluating Resources

Welcome to the Library's Academic Research & Writing Guide guide. This guide was created as a companion to ENGL 102 and is meant to be a helpful reference after you have completed the course.

Section Scripture

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1 (NASB)

Library vs. the Open Web

Have you ever been doing research and been asked to pay for an article? If you haven't been going through a library the chances are good that you have.

Part of what the Library provides for you as a student is access to information that you can't reach or find through Google. It might seem easier to use Google, but you are really shooting yourself in the foot as a student and a scholar if you miss the wealth of information available through the Library.

Besides that, the Library uses your tuition to purchase you access, so not taking advantage of it is tantamount to flushing your money down the toilet. You are already paying for it, so why not use it?

Different Resources, and their Uses

There are a lot of resources useful for gaining information, and it can be valuable to understand the differences so that you know where to look.

Here are some common sources of information and some of their uses:

Encyclopedias & Dictionaries

Useful for:

  • Overviews
  • Short biographies
  • Discovering key terms
  • Lists of sources (what they cited)

Databases

Useful for finding:

  • articles
  • scholarly journals
  • magazines
  • newspapers
  • dissertations & theses

The Library Catalog

Useful for finding:

  • Books
  • E-Books
  • Videos

The Internet

Useful for finding:

  • information about and provided by associations
  • government publications
  • information about and provided by special-interest groups
  • open access (i.e. free) articles

Thinking Critically

Authority

A good source should tell you about who wrote the content. Authoritative sources strengthen your suppositions and arguments, as well as your writing as a whole.

Questions on Authority:

  • Do the authors have education? A degree in the discussed topic lots you know the author is reasonably well informed.
  • Do the authors have experience? A business tycoon may not have a degree, but they have the practical knowledge of years spent as a CEO.

 

Accuracy

If you support your arguments with inaccurate resources your reader will be unable to discern whether your conclusions are true or false. By looking at the oversight of and support used in a publication we can be reasonably sure of its credibility.

 Questions on Accuracy:

  • Are the claims presented supported? An idea shouldn't be taken as true unless there is quality evidence to verify it.
  • Did the work undergo oversight? A quality work should be reviewed by a knowledgeable editor, or better yet a one or more scholars in the field ("peer review")

 

Objectivity

Rather than taking the conclusions of the authors at face value, try and discover the context for their reasoning. Being aware of outside influences enables you to better evaluate a resource.

Questions on Objectivity:

  • What are the goals of the work? The objective of the authors should be plainly presented, though you may need to read the introduction to find it.
  • Are biases evident? Alternate viewpoints should be discussed in a fair manner. Emotional or condescending speech often indicates a lack of objectivity.