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Writing the Research Paper: Gathering Research

Databases vs Websites

Databases are better to use than websites when looking for scholarly, peer-reviewed articles.


  •  Page on the Internet
  •  Anyone can create one - be careful!
  • . Edu and .gov websites - usually reliable. Evaluate others for reliability.


  •  Collection of resources made searchable - different from websites. 
  •  Content reviewed by editors or experts in the field
  •  Can be sorted by date, so you can put the newest items first
  •  Citation information provided

Evaluating Websites

 Use the CRAAP test to determine appropriate websites for academic work:

Currency: the timeliness of the information
• When was the information published or posted?
• Has the information been revised or updated?
• Is the information current or out-of date for your topic?
• Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs
• Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
• Who is the intended audience?
• Is the information at an appropriate level?
• Have you looked at a variety of sources before choosing this one?
• Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information
• Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
• Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
• What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
• What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
• Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
• Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content
• Where does the information come from?
• Is the information supported by evidence?
• Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
• Can you verify any of the information in another source?
• Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
• Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists
• What is the purpose of the information?
• Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
• Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
• Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
• Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Rank each of the 5 parts from 1 to 10 (1 = unreliable, 10 = excellent)

45 - 50 Excellent | 40 - 44 Good
35 - 39 Average | 30 - 34 Borderline Acceptable
Below 30 - Unacceptable



What's the Difference...Articles and Journals

Articles are short pieces written for a magazine, journal or newspaper. An Issue is a collection of articles.  The contents of an issue may also include advertisements and letters to the editor.  A volume is a collection of issues (usually covering one year of printed publication), and may be bound in a hard cover format.

A journal refers to a particular type of periodical.  In your research, your professors will want you to use scholarly journals to obtain your information. Scholarly journals are often published by a professional organization representing a specific academic discipline.  These journals will contain articles, studies and reviews which are related to the specific discipline and/or organization.  A key factor to remember is that scholarly journals are usually peer-reviewed.  This means that the content of the articles is reviewed by professionals and/or scholars in the field prior to publication.  This review process assures those using the material that the article(s) have scholarly, accurate content and can be used as valid research material.

Databases will provide you with electronic access to scholarly online articles and journals.  Databases may provide you with abstracts (article summaries), or full-text articles.  Remember when using databases, the journal or periodical is often referred to as the "Source" rather than a journal.

Scholarly Journal vs. Popular Magazine

Scholarly or "peer reviewed" journals contain original research findings by scholars and/or experts in the field.  Prior to publication these articles are generally reviewed by a team of editors (the peer review process), to verify accuracy of content.  Scholarly journals usually include an abstract or summary of the article, and a bibliography.  Generally there are no photographs or images and have limited charts, graphs, etc.  Journals associated with professional organizations are generally considered to be scholarly publications.

Popular magazines generally include information related to current events or general public interest and contain numerous color photographs.  There is no editorial review board to review the content of the article.  Examples of popular magazines include Time, Newsweek, People, Sports Illustrated .