COMM 111 Arakaki Summer 2021: Finding Articles
Most research requires use of published articles. These might include articles from general interest magazines, newspapers, or specialized academic/peer-reviewed journals. All of these types of published articles have gone through some kind of editorial and fact-checking process. You can find these kinds of sources using Google, but it will be harder because they will be mixed in with all the rest of the stuff (good and bad) that Google serves up. Instead of Google for these kinds of sources, try a library database!
Here is a quick overview of article source types:
Periodical and newspaper articles: Newspaper articles and popular magazine articles are written for the general public to understand. Usually written by a journalist or freelance writer (not an expert in the field). Have gone through some editing and fact-checking. A reliable periodical or newspaper article will pull in and cite information from other credible sources and people (interviews, quotes, etc).
Trade publication articles: Trade publications are like magazines, but published for a specific profession or industry. For example "Graphic Arts Monthly" is written for graphic designers, with articles to keep them up to date in the profession. Trade publication articles, like popular magazine articles, have gone through some editing and fact-checking.
Scholarly / Academic Journal articles: Scholarly journals (also called academic journals) normally publish research or scholarship related to a specific academic discipline. They are usually written with more technical language specific to that discipline, and assume that the reader has knowledge of that field. Articles published in these journals go through a more rigorous review process called "peer review".
Finding Reliable Information via Google
Depending on your topic, you might also use Google to locate reliable information. For example, government websites are often a great source of statistical information, as well as local and state information. You can limit your Google search to government websites by adding site:gov to your search.
Not all published articles on the web are available for free. If you hit a "pay wall" that asks you to pay for an article, don't pay! Most likely, we can find the article in one of the library databases, or we can request a copy for you if you have a few days. Ask a librarian if you need help.
When you find a possible source on the web, use the same criteria listed above to determine if it is reliable and useful. Taking your time with source evaluation will help make your argument stronger and your research paper more credible.
What Makes a Source Reliable?
There is no magic, easy answer to this question! Source evaluation isn't black and white. Instead we want to think about the questions we should be asking ourselves when deciding whether to use a source like:
- Is this source relevant to my topic or is it just that my keywords happened to show up in it?
- How much scrutiny was this subjected to before it was published? This Know Your Sources infographic will help you determine this for different kinds of sources.
- What is the reputation of the publication? If you are not familiar with the publication, look it up on Wikipedia. For example, if you found an article online from a journal called the Occidental Quarterly,looking that journal up on Wikipedia will tell you it is published by a white supremacist organization. This helps you to determine if the information will be useful and reliable for your research.
- Do you know anything about the author? If not, can you find out anything? If the author is a generalist journalist, and/or is using reliable outside sources in their writing, this might not be important.
- Are the sources that the author used to make their argument included/cited? If not, does the author tell you where they got the information clearly enough that you could track it down?
- What is the bias or perspective of the author? Which points of view are they representing? Which points of view are they leaving out?
Remember, the sources we choose to cite form the basis of our own credibility. If we cite junk, our reader is justified in thinking our argument is junk.