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Michigan State University

PSY 209H--Researching your topic on Brain and Behavior: Assessing sources

Assessing sources

To assess any source (web site, video, book, article...) use the following questions to think about quality and validity:   

  1. Author:  Who is the author of the site?  This can be a person (credentials are needed) or an agency (such as the National Science Foundation).  You'll want the information to be coming from a credible source .
  2. Date:  When was the information you want to cite written or last updated?  You want this to be fairly recent. 
  3. References:  Does the site reference the scientific literature or other reliable sources?  Information presented without citation of the literature is not scholarly.  You want to cite as many scholarly sources as possible and minimize the information you get from non-scholarly sources.
  4. Audience:  Who is the audience of the site?  If the site was written for a layperson or lower-level student, the information might not be in-depth enough for a senior biology student's paper. 
  5. Funding:  What is the funding source of the site?  Advertising should be clearly distinguishable from content.  Look for evidence of bias. This is more of a problem for sites that present health information. 

What kind of source is this web site?

1.  Textbook

  • Expert authors
  • Student level
  • References?

2.  Scientific article

  • Expert authors
  • Professional level
  • References

3.  Scientific book/encyclopedia/handbook

  • Expert authors
  • Professional or student level
  • References

4.  Other options:

  • Society newsletter
  • Site for teachers
  • Science news 
  • Medical news 
  • Hospital public education site
  • YouTube video uploaded by ???
  • Popular magazine
  • Professor/researcher's own site
  • Press release
  • Pharmaceutical company site
  • Government organization education site
  • Someone's dissertation


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