Authoritative Reference Sources vs Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a great resource for getting general info about something, but because anyone can contribute or change its content it is considered unreliable. College faculty typically do not consider Wikipedia a credible information source.
Instead, use the library's print or electronic encyclopedias, dictionaries, or other reference books to backup the basic information of your research paper. These resources have gone through an editorial process to check for accuracy. To the right and below are some resources that may be of use.
How to Evaluate Resources (Print & Electronic)
- Who is the intended audience?
- Is scope or purpose specifically stated? Do the contents match the stated scope?
- Is the point of view stated? Is there a particular agenda that is being pushed?
- Does it have an established reputation? If so, consider what kind of reputation it represents?
- What is the host's motivation for providing the information on the Web?
(Advertising for profit, part of agency's mission, educational purposes, reporting original research, publicizing a particular agenda)
- What information can be gained about the site domain code of the host address?
- Is the text well written? Is it written in the language of the discipline or for a general audience?
- Does the source have features, such as charts, illustrations, or a bibliography, that will be helpful?
- Is the information needed to cite the material easily found?
- Is there a lot of information available or is the information it provides limited?
- Are links to other Web resources labeled clearly?
- Is objectivity a factor?
- Who is the author?
- Does the author provide credentials demonstrating expertise or knowledge of the subject?
- Is the publisher reputable?
- Does the resource contain grammatical, spelling or typographical errors?
- Is there any contact information provided?
- Are facts, such as statistics, accurate, current, and verifiable? Are sources of information cited?
- What sources or methods did the author use to gather the information?
- Is the method of obtaining data accurate and dependable?
- Is it refereed/peer-reviewed or did just a staff editor review it? Peer-review means a scholar or researcher in the related field has reviewed it before publication.
- How frequently is the resource updated?
- Are the links to other resources current? And is the page finished or still under construction?
- Does the author list where they get their information from
(e.g. footnotes, bibliography, or reference list)?
- Are there many sources listed?
- Are the author's sources reliable?
- Can you follow their listed sources to obtain the original information sources?