Evaluating good sources may seem difficult especially with the uprising of mass information websites which can be edited by anyone regardless of their credentials. Finding reliable sources is not impossible though; it merely takes a bit of effort on your part.
Good sources will provide you with reliable and accurate information which stems from actual research. A good source is often published within the last five years, which ensures the information is current. A good source is also published in a peer-reviewed or scholarly journal or book. Bear in mind that some college papers require primary and secondary sources. Primary sources are those recorded from someone who was there. For example, a study on the Civil War would include diaries from soldiers and letters from home as a primary source, and a book written by a scholar on the difficulties of the war as a secondary source, because the author was not present at the time. In these instances, a good primary source can be older than 5 years and not in a scholarly journal or book.
Bad sources will provide you with faulty information that is incomplete and often only based on the opinion of one person. A bad source includes something that is old, published more than five years ago. A bad source is also something not scholarly such as radio programs, popular books that are not research-based, journal articles that are not in a peer-reviewed journal, magazine articles, websites pages that are not a government or peer reviewed site, or things you might hear from other people.
You find good sources by doing a library search using large academic databases or a library catalog. You can narrow or refine your searches by using relevant keywords. You can alternate the keywords with variables. Of the results, it is best to only read through the acceptable books or journals that were peer-reviewed and considered scholarly. It is also beneficial to narrow your search to those articles which were published in the last five years.
Once you have narrowed your searches to this, you can read over the titles of the search results to find those which are most relevant to your essay or paper. The abstracts are a great place to start reading, because they will let you know which of the articles you have selected are most pertinent to your project or assignment.
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