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GNED 1303 - Huntingford

Today's Objectives:

Provide resources and strategies to help you with your reflective journals and your group projects.

Today we'll answer these questions:

1. What types of sources are good for undergraduate work, and how do you evaluate them?

2. How do you find those sources in the Library (and why)?

To answer these questions, we will:

  1. Identify characteristics of good sources to use in academic research
  2. Identify criteria to critically evaluate sources
  3. Find reference sources, books and reference sources using LibrarySearch

Books and Book Chapters
Strengths: Provide an in-depth investigation into or discussion of a topic supported by research. Many scholarly, edited books have chapters similar to journal articles.
Weaknesses: Sometimes hard to tell if a book is scholarly.

Scholarly Journal Articles
Strengths: content is based on research findings or extensive review of existing research, written and reviewed by subject-matter experts.
Weaknesses: Written for expert readers using discipline-specific language or terminology, difficult to understand, not always very current.

Strengths: contain concise background information on a topic, describing important concepts, terms, events, people or issues. Normally a great starting point when you are just learning about a topic. Written by experts but more accessible than journal articles for non-experts.
Weaknesses: Short topic summaries may not go into enough depth on a topic. Wikipedia has reliability issues (avoid this and go for an academic encyclopedia from the library instead).

Media Sources (news, magazine articles)
Strengths: Good for current information and some analysis of current events and issues. Written by journalists for general audiences.
Weaknesses: Can be biased, sometimes written to entertain rather than inform, not always written by experts or reviewed by experts. On the Web, unreliable sites containing misinformation can pose as real news sites, and it can be hard to tell what is authentic and reliable news.

Websites & Social Media
Strengths: Easily accessible. Can find info on just about any topic. Can find info from governments, advocacy groups, service organizations, and communities here.
Weaknesses: Varying amounts of review or quality control. It can be hard to assess authority, credibility and reliability. Can be more subjective than objective and might not provide evidence, context or references.

Audio & Video Sources (e.g. podcasts)
Strengths: Easily accessible. Can be aimed at very broad or very niche audiences. Can provide perspectives of people living with, participating in or experiencing the issue/topic of interest.
Weaknesses: Varying amounts of review or quality control. It can be hard to assess authority, credibility and reliability. Can be more subjective than objective and might not provide evidence, context or references.

Evaluate Sources with the Three C's: Content, Container, Context


  • What is it about? What kind of information does it provide? How is it presented? I.e. is it fact, opinion, review, analysis, commentary, or research?
  • Is the information verifiable? trustworthy? How can you tell? Does it provide details about where the information comes from, i.e. references? Does the author have the required expertise, qualifications or experience to write about this topic?
  • Is it original content or re-used/shared content?
  • Is it relevant? What does it have to do with your topic? How is this info helpful to you?


  • What is it? (e.g. an academic journal, a newspaper, a book, a blog?) What are the characteristics of this type of source? Who are the writers and readers/listeners for this kind of information? What other content is found in the same container? (e.g. reader commentary, advertisements, web links?)


  • Where did you find it? (e.g. through social media? Google? a library database?)
  • Where is it shared or published and how is it accessed? (freely available online? With a subscription? Digital or in print?) 
  • Who is responsible for this information - a company, a government, an organization, an individual?
  • How does this information relate to what else you have seen or read on this topic?


What are the best tools for the information that I need?


  • Searches multiple Library databases in all disciplines.  Sometimes harder to search for discipline-specific topics (ie. the term "stress" could relate to psychology or engineering) so be as descriptive and specific as you can with your search terms.

Background / Reference Search Tools (Use LibrarySearch or the Background Sources tab on any subject guide)

  • Useful for finding background information on your topic, finding key people, understanding key concepts and locating other readings.  Includes encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.

General Searching Tips:

Less is More: Start with two or three words and then add one additional term at a time

  • disability theory
  • disability theory feminist justice

Use synonyms:

  • representation (woman OR women OR female) media

Phrase searching: Use "quotation marks" around key ideas made up of multiple words

  • "social justice"
  • very useful when you have a specific phrase containing common words

Truncation: Use an asterisk * to find different endings to your keywords

  • soci* = sociology, society, social
  • disab* = disability, disabled

Use limits: These refine (narrow) your search using different restrictions

  • Date (last 5 years)
  • Peer-reviewed (for articles)
Tips for using LibrarySearch effectively

Useful Filters (on the right hand side of the results screen)

  1. Resource Type
    • Books
    • Book Chapters
    • Articles
    • Reference Entries
  2. Availability
    • Available online
    • Physical items
    • Open access
    • Peer-reviewed
  3. Subject

Useful Tools (in the item record)

  1. Related Resources
  2. Citation
  3. Permalink
  4. Access Options

Citing and Referencing

  1. Use the "cite" feature in most search tools to get you started with most resources
  2. Use the MRU citations guides and resources to find additional help for different styles, including guides, and videos. 
  3. Use the Service Desk on the 1st floor of the RLLC for assistance as well as the library chat feature on the library website.
  4. Make an appointment with Student Learning Services


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Sara Sharun