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Business

Subject Guide for Buisness and Economics.

Finding Quality Sources

Evaluating the Credibility of Your Sources

Your use of sources is a means of supporting the argument you make in your research paper. The sources you reference need to be credible and authoritative. How do you know that your sources are of value? Ask yourself the following questions:

Authority: What credentials are listed for the author? Where was the source published?

  • Is the author affiliated with a university or another institution? What else has the author written?
  • What are his/her credentials? Are they qualified? Expertise in this field? There are many articles published claiming to be scholarly work by individuals claiming expertise but are of highly questionable credibility.
  • Is it peer-reviewed? Peer-reviewed scholarly work provides greater credibility to the publication.
  • Was the source published on-line? Check the URL for the domain. This can help you determine the origin of the document, for example whether it is produced by a federal or local agency, a nonprofit organization or a commercial web site. A web site on a university or institution's server is more likely to be a reliable objective source than one on a commercial site. Be wary of websites where the name of the author cannot be found.
  • NOTE: A journal article found online through a database is NOT a web resource.

Objectivity (or Tone): What is the purpose of the website?

  • What goals/objectives does the page meet? Determine if the page is a mask for advertising; if yes, then the information could be biased.
  • A writer’s tone of how he/she writes is evidence of respect for the research process and for the opinions of others. Be wary of writers who express their views in an angry tone.

Currency: Is the piece timely and appropriate for its field?

  • Material can become outdated very quickly. You should search for additional texts on the topic to find related sources, sources in which this source is cited, and sources that cite this source in order to get a stronger picture of its intellectual relevance and value.
  • Be aware of when the web page was created and how recently it's been updated. Outdated information and broken links indicate that the page is not being maintained.

Audience: For whom is the source written?

  • Is the intended audience a scholarly one? If so, it should have a clear bibliography that you will also be able to consult for further sources.
  • References and links to other sources can add to a document's credibility.

What is a Periodical? A periodical is any source that is published at regular intervals, such as daily, weekly, monthly, etc. They can be journals, magazines, newspapers, etc. Periodicals can be popular or scholarly in nature.

  • What is a Scholarly Periodical? It is an academic journal; a published work of a particular discipline or subject written by a scholar or person of expertise. Used for teaching, continual learning, and professional development. Generally called a journal.  

  • What is a Popular Periodical? Sports, Hobbies, Lifestyle, etc. Appealing to or intended for the general public; liked by many people. Generally called a magazine.
     

Periodicals can also be located on databases and the web: these criteria may be applied to the online version of print periodicals, web-based electronic periodicals as well as the traditional print magazines and journals.

NOTE: As you read through the following criteria for journals and magazines, realize that none of the differential characteristics between journals and magazines can ever be totally clear cut.

Journals:

  • Journals have a very serious appearance, with many graphs and charts, but few glossy pages or exciting pictures.
  • Scholarly journals always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies (references, sources).
  • The articles are written by a scholar in the field or by someone who has done research in the field. The credentials of these individuals are always given.
  • The articles are usually long, anywhere from 3-10 pages.
  • The language or terminology of scholarly journals is that of the discipline covered. It assumes some scholarly background on the part of the reader.
  • The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world.
  • Many of the scholarly are published by a specific professional organizations.

Magazines:

  • Magazines are often referred to as "popular.” They come in many formats, often quite attractive in appearance, with many photographs, drawings, etc. They also contain advertisements.
  • Magazines rarely cite sources and the original source is sometimes obscure.
  • Articles are usually very short, written in a simple language, and are designed to meet an average educational level.
  • Popular magazines appeal to a wide range of people.
  • The main purpose of popular magazines is to entertain the reader, to sell products, and to promote a viewpoint.

Examples of Specialized Journals

Examples of Popular Magazines

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association 
The Modern Language Journal 
Journal of Wildlife Diseases 
Journal of Educational Research 
Journal of Humanistic Psychology

People Weekly 
Time 
Newsweek 
Sports Illustrated 
Good Housekeeping 
Business Week

 

Why Not Just Google?

While using internet searches, such as Google, seem easier, it actually can make finding quality resources a lot harder.

Search engines are designed to produce as many results as possible, but often those results are irrelevant or from unreliable, irrelevant, or inaccessible sources. This means that you--the researcher-- will have to determine if each individual source is helpful and authoritative and then determine if and how you can access it. Search engines like Google are best when used primarily for defining terms and gaining basic knowledge of your topic before beginning to research. 

Library Databases do a lot of the source evaluation for you. The only resources they contain have already been identified as reliable and authoritative, and the library pays for access, so you will always be able to get to what you need. You may not get as many results, but the quality of information you find will make your whole research project much easier.

 

More information on Google vs. Databases

Google vs. Library Databases: Which is Better for Research?

From Yale University Library: The Web vs. Library Databases--A Comparison

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary sources are first-hand descriptions of events. They are produced by people who were at the event or lived at that time.

Some primary sources are:Old books

  • legal documents,
  • science experiments,
  • photographs,
  • novels and short stories,
  • recordings,
  • speeches,
  • diary entries,
  • interviews, e-mails or letters,
  • and works of art.
  • Even historical newspaper articles are sometimes considered primary sources.

Secondary sources are descriptions, commentaries, interpretations, and evaluations of primary sources. Basically, if something is talking about a primary source, it is a secondary source. 

For more information:

Borough of Manhattan Community College: Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Santiago Canyon College: Identifying Primary and Secondary Resources

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What are Reference Books?

Reference books are designed for accessing specific facts or information and can take the form of indexes, dictionaries, encyclopedias, bibliographies, almanacs, directories, handbooks etc.

Reference books cannot be checked-out from the library. All reference books are grouped together in an area known as the reference section. 

At BPCC Library, the reference section is located on the 1st floor of the Learning Commons. You can use the scanner or copy machine to copy the information you need.

Use the scanners to copy reference or reserve material. 

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    Scanners are free to use. There is one on the first floor and one in the tutoring center. 

    You can upload your image to a flash-drive or e-mail it to yourself.

    Hard copies can be printed by logging on to a computer and using your free printing. 

Where to Begin?

How to choose a topic:

Using Credo Reference to jump-start your research:

Using the Mind Map from Credo Reference: