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University of Minnesota

Kathryn A. Martin Library

COMM 5000: Senior Seminar, Fear & Fear Appeals Research Guide

Spring 2016

Why Use Library Resources?

It may be tempting to think....Isn't everything on the internet? Can't I just use Google and Wikipedia for my research?

While Google, Wikipedia, and other internet sources can be useful, you don't want to rely on them for your research. Why not?

  • Not everything is openly accessible on the internet. The UMD Library subscribes to and purchases high quality resources that are not available on the internet.
  • Information overload: using a search engine, like Google, often means that you get thousands or millions of results. Library databases are organized in such a way that the results are more manageable. This allows you to find the best resources for your topic quickly.
  • Authority & accuracy: keep in mind that anyone can create or edit an entry in Wikipedia. Anyone can create a website. How will you know if the author is an expert? How will you verify the information?
  • Your professors want to see high quality, scholarly sources cited in your papers. Impress them by using library resources!

Is it ever okay to use Google or Wikipedia?

  • If you need background information about a topic before you research it, looking in a place like Wikipedia can be helpful. You can also find background information and overviews of various topics by using online encyclopedias at the UMD Library.
  • Think of internet resources as a starting point, but NEVER a stopping point. Always go beyond Wikipedia!

Evaluating Information

When evaluating sources, ask yourself these critical questions:

Author: 

  • Who wrote this source? 
  • Do they have any relevant expertise, credentials, or experience?  
  • Do they have connections to groups/interests that might indicate bias? Look for potential conflicts of interest and remember that expertise ≠ bias. 

Point of view:

  • What is the author’s viewpoint on this topic? 
  • How does it relate to your point of view?

Audience:

  • What audience(s) is this article intended for?

Evidence:

  • What evidence does the author use to support their viewpoint (e.g. research data, interviews with experts, opinions, anecodotes)? 
  • Is it convincing? 

What’s missing?

  • What is missing from this source (e.g. perspectives, data, background information)? 
  • What kinds of additional information would be helpful to have in order to learn more about this topic?

Context:

  • How will you use this source in your research? (e.g., find links to more sources, get background information, make a counterargument, use to support your arguments)