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BMB 495--Researching your topic in biochemistry: Distinguishing Valid Sources

Distinguishing Valid Sources

Use Web sites from reliable sources to supplement information you get from books and electronic texts. 

When using Web sites, you need to be careful about quality and source.  Ask these questions to help you determine whether a Web site is worth using for your paper:

  1. Author:  Who is the author of the site?  This can be a person (credentials are needed) or an agency (such as the National Cancer Institute).  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 audience is a patient, layperson, or lower-level student, the information might be good but perhaps not in depth enough for a senior student presentation.  Don't use "dumbed down" sources.   
  5. Bias:  What is the funding source of the site?  Advertising should be clearly distinguishable from content.  Look for evidence of bias. Your source should be interested in scientific validity, not merely in selling something or in a political idea.  If questionable, check information from several different sources to see where a consensus lies.  If a Web site puts forward an idea that is very different from what most sources are saying, you need to be aware of that and acknowledge it when referencing. 


If you do a Google search about your topic and some results come back from Google Books, you'll find that you often aren't able to read all of the pages of the book online.  Get the title of the book and look it up in our Library Catalog to see if we own it and if you can get it from the MSU Libraries instead. 

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Jodi Coalter