Evaluating and Citing Information
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As you gather your research materials, take some time to evaluate your sources. This means reading articles, books, and website information with a critical eye:
Do not assume that each source you find is as good as the next. The bottom line is that you should never use a source just to use it -- be sure the information is valid, academic, and suitable for undergraduate or graduate-level research.
Your instructor may give you some guidelines to follow while you are searching for resources. She may ask that you use only journal articles (and not magazines). Or, he may prefer that you do not include information from Web pages. These guidelines will help you to meet the professor's expectations and learn to distinguish why some sources are more suitable for research than others. At the beginning of each research project, be sure you understand your instructor's expections and ask for clarification if necessary.
For more information on how to evaluate whether a periodical article is appropriate for your research, see the following:
If you plan to use information found on a Web site, it is especially important to critically evaluate it. Anyone can publish on the Internet and there is often no reviewing mechanism. Begin by asking the basic evaluation questions listed above, and then review the criteria listed in our Evaluating Internet Information tutorial.
Whether you quote a source directly or refer to it indirectly, you must give credit for any facts, unique ideas, etc., which are not your own. You should cite the source of this material correctly and consistently according to one of the bibliographic styles widely used in colleges and universities today. Another important reason to compile a bibliography is to provide your reader with enough information to find the materials which you are citing. Some of the most-often used guides at Webster University include:
- Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA) (BF 76.7 .P83 2001)
- MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (LB 2369 .G53 2003)
- Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations which is often referred to as simply "Turabian". (LB 2369 .T8 1996)
- Chicago Manual of Style (REF Z 253 .U69 2003)
Always check with your instructor as to the preferred style for your particular assignment.
As a general rule, most style manuals will require you to record at least the following information:
- Author's name
- Title (if periodical, both the article and the periodical title)
- Publication facts
Our Citation Guides page includes information and examples of the correct format for citing both print and online sources in a variety of bibliographic styles. For additional information on each style, check the catalog in your local library for a print copy of the style manuals.
Once you have evaluated a Web site and determined that the information is appropriate for your research project, you will need to find the correct format for citing the Web site. The format will be dictated by the style manual you are using. Our Citation Guides page includes examples based on the major style guides.
As a general rule, to cite most Web sites, you will need to record at least:
- Author's name
- Title of the work
- Date of publication/creation/last update
- Site's Uniform Resource Locator (URL or online address)
- Date you accessed the site
If you use one of the library's databases to retrieve the full-text of an article, your cite will need to be a combination of both the journal and a Web site citation. Since electronic full-text versions of articles are not always identical to the printed periodical, it is important to indicate which version you have seen and where.
For example, the APA style bibliographic citation for an article from the Academic Search Premier database would look like this:
Note: The example above does not include the entire URL/online address for the specific article. APA style instead asks for the name of the database and the retrieval date.
Changes are constantly being made to the specifications of APA style. The latest changes are available at http://www.apastyle.org.