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Research Strategies: Step #4: Read & Evaluate

This guide provides methods and guidelines on the best ways to research.

Which Source Do I Use?

Evaluating Online Sources: Simple Strategies for Complex Thinking

The Internet allows people to create and to share information in ways that once seemed possible only in science fiction. At the same time that we can benefit from the open nature of the Internet, it's sometimes hard to decide what online information to trust and to use.

This guide offers some simple, evidence-based strategies for evaluating the credibility of online sources.

These strategies will help you look beyond less important surface features of a web source (for example, how professional it looks or if it's a .org), and think more carefully about who is behind the source, what their purpose is, and how trustworthy and credible they are. 

Identifying a Research Gap

What is a research gap? Missing pieces or areas in the literature that have not yet been explored or are under-explored.

The gap could be in: population or sample (e.g., size, type, location, etc.); methodology; data collection and/or analysis; other research variables.

How to identify a gap:

  1. Figure out your topic or research area.
  2. Read the literature (articles, literature reviews, meta-analysis, systematic reviews).
    1. Tip: Read the "introduction," conclusion," and "suggestions for future research" sections which often mention the reasons why that research was done as well as where additional research is needed.
  3. Find additional articles.
    1. Tip: Mine the bibliography. Look at who has cited the article (Google Scholar).

Types of Sources

Types of Sources: Books - Provide in-depth, detailed coverage and background information. Articles from academic / scholarly / peer-reviewed journals -  Provide information that is up-to-date and highly specific for scholars, researchers, and professionals.  Articles from trade publications - Provide information targeted to professionals in a particular industry.  Articles from popular magazines - Provide broad summaries of research or issues on a topic for a general audience.  Articles from newspapers - Provide up-to-date, national and regional information on a current topic. Internet sources -  Can be useful for a variety of information needs, but each website will require critical evaluation.