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How to Research a Topic
Use these steps to research a topic and document your sources.
Online sources are not all the same. We have subscription access to 70+ databases containing quality information for your research -- including articles, eBooks, and streaming videos. Library databases typically have more relevant academic sources for your topic than what you'll find with a general Google search.
You can use these criteria to help discern the quality of a website.
Who is the author? Most scholarly and professional sites will provide the full name and contact information for the author of the site. Look for any credentials listed.
Is the author affiliated with a professional organization or educational institution?
How accurate is the information? Look for bibliographies or works cited to see if the sources sound legitimate. Also, check to see if any part of the information can be verified in another source, such as an encyclopedia or a reference source. Look for obvious errors like misspellings and incorrect facts.
What is its purpose? Many sites want to sell a product or persuade you toward a particular viewpoint. Try to determine the purpose of a page before you trust its content. Beware of excessive advertising.
When was the site created or last updated? Check to see that all of the facts are current.
Are these topics successfully addressed, with clearly presented arguments and adequate support to substantiate them?
Does the work update other sources, substantiate other materials you have read, or add new information?
Is the target audience identified and appropriate for your needs?
How professional does the page look? In a professional or educational site, the content will be the main focus of the page, not the design. It should be easy to navigate.