BENG 4933: Sustainable Watershed Engineering

A guide to resources for the final project.

Videos on Evaluating Resources

The University Libraries has prepared a video to help you understand the questions to ask when evaluating resources.

Level of Resources

Items above the line are acceptable resources unless otherwise specified within the assignment.

Resources can be classified into different types. Shown below is a list of some of the types that you might come across in print or on the Web:

Journals
Patents
Standards
Documents
Technical Reports
Conferences
Dissertations
Books from University and Other Known Publishers
Trade journals (Online or in Print)
National Newspapers
Magazines
Online Only Newspapers



Local Newspapers
Pamphlets
Newsletters
Flyers
Vanity Press Books
Letters (Correspondence)
Bulletin Boards
Gossip

These resources mentioned above are loosely organized by reliability.  The publications at the top of the list are generally considered more reliable.  However, reliability varies by field and by author. And no matter how reliable a specific source is, generally it is wise to have at least 3 resources for any important topic as that will allow a comparison of facts, methods, and/or opinions.

CRAAP Test for Evaluating

It is important to evaluate the sources that you use. The more credible your sources, the more credible your argument.
Before you use a source as part of your research, here are some questions to consider:

Current: The timeliness of the information.

  • Is the information up to date?
  • When was the site last updated?
  • If a website, are the links functional?

Relevant: The importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to my topic or answer my question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at the appropriate level (not too basic or advanced)
  • Would I be comfortable using this source for my coursework or research?

Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/creator/maintainer of the source? If an organization, do they include information about themselves? about their sponsors? 
  • What are his/her credentials?  (Is that information available?)
  • Are his/her qualifications relevant to the subject matter?
  • Is the publication peer-reviewed or scholarly?
  • If material is taken from other sources, is it fully credited or cited?

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information. 

  • Is the information correct?
  • Is the information clearly written? 
  • Is the information presented in an organized manner?
  • Do the links lead to useful information corroborating the site’s statements, or to they link to other questionable information?
  • Does the author substantiate his points with facts or complete references?
  • Is the site well designed?
  • Is there poor grammar, incorrect punctuation, unnecessary capitalizations or typos?

Purpose: The reason the information exists. 

  • What is the purpose of the information? Inform? Teach? Persuade? Sell? Entertain?
  • Are the author’s motives discernible? Bias?
  • Does the author appear to have an axe to grind, or seem blindly committed to his/her cause?
  • Does the site have any sponsors? Is it promoting a product? Most have ads, but sponsors have more impact.

Bottom line

Would this site be a useful source for a research paper?

Does it present balanced information, or, if not, does it credibly represent a point of view?

Definitions

Primary – In the sciences, primary sources are articles written by the person who did the research/experiment and may include synthesis of previous research by others. Usually primary sources contain sections on experimental methodology and data.

Secondary – In the sciences, secondary resources talk about the research rather than reporting the results.

Peer Review – A formal process of evaluating and revising articles before they are published.  Also called “refereed”.

Review Article – The author pulls together the relevant research literature on a topic usually for a specified time period.  The author summarized and evaluates the research while providing citations to the primary literature.

Research Article – The author’s purpose is to report on research done.  Generally a complete research article will include experimental data, procedures or protocols used to generate the data, as well as a discussion of the data.  Most will reference other literature.

Technical Report – A formal document prepared by the engineer to communicate the status of a project.  Style and elements vary depending on sponsoring organization but will normally contain a detailed description of a design, test, and/or results and conclusions.  Early reports may be referred to as progress reports.