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Weeding — An Introduction

The steps in the process

Let's say you are researching the causes of violence among teenagers. You do a search — you get back 10,000 sources. That's a vast amount of information to weed through.

The simplest way to handle this is to pick the top few matches and head home to write your paper. But doing this will end up wasting your time as you struggle to use resources that may be poorly written, unreliable, and contain incomplete information.

The first step in filtering out the "bad" from your research is figuring out what type of source you need (is it a book, a journal article, a Web site, an encyclopedia?) and using the right search tool to find it.

WANT MORE on selecting a source?
> Unit 1 > Welcome to the Information Age

WANT MORE on choosing a search tool?
> Unit 2 > Starting Your Search

The next step is to pull out the best matches from your results. You will, of course, want to use only the " best" information, so you have to carefully select your sources. But how do you tell the difference between a " good" source and a " bad" source?

In the past, large publishing companies were responsible for almost everything we read. Since the reputations of these companies depended on the quality of their publications, they used editors to select reliable authors and check the facts in their writings.

Additionally, to be purchased for a library collection, a publication had to be selected by a librarian who would judge whether the publication was appropriate for the specific library collection. Non-scholarly publications didn't usually get added to an academic library's collection.

Today, desktop publishing software, sophisticated printers, and the World Wide Web have made it possible for anyone to be a " publisher." All a person needs is the right technology to distribute a 'zine, create a Web page, or even self-publish a book. Without a large publisher acting as a quality-control agent for all this information, it's now up to the reader — you — to evaluate the quality of each source.

This unit will introduce you to the process of analyzing sources for use in research.

PART 1: Initial appraisal

Your initial appraisal starts when you begin your search for information. Whenever you look at a book, article, or Web site, you should learn to check the basics.

PART 2: Content Analysis

To analyze content, look at the source. Scan the book, article, Web site, etc. Look at the table of contents and the index. Note whether bibliographies are included. Content analysis is based on the following points:

Following these steps will help you weed the useful from the useless.

Image of 4 stacks of books

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