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Rutgers-Newark Physics Research Guide: Evaluating Citations/References

This research guide was created (in the Summer of 2017) to help students performing research in the Physics department at Rutgers University-Newark

1. What type of source is it?

As you may be aware, different citation styles are followed depending on the discipline. Even in just the sciences, there's ACS (American Chemical Society), AIP (American Institute of Physics), and CSE (Council of Science Editors), to name a few.  In fact, different publishers use different styles – and may even decide to use different styles depending on the journal in question.

Given a citation, how can you tell what type of source it is?  Here are tips on what to look out for...

  • Book - includes publisher name
  • Journal article - includes volume/issue #
  • Dissertation - includes university name
  • Conference proceeding - includes conference name, location
  • Patent - includes patent # that typically begins with 2 letters
  • Web site - includes URL

 

ACS Style Guide

AIP Style Manual

CSE Manual

2. How to evaluate sources

You must evaluate all sources that you find - yes, even those found on library shelves or within the library’s databases!  So, what do you need to look for?

· Relevance of resource to your topic and types of sources you're looking for

· Currency – unless you’re doing a historical study, you’re probably going to want only the most recent sources for your science papers/projects

· Authority/credibility/reliability of authors/editors/publishers

o What are their credentials?

o Are they considered experts in the field?  Do other scholars cite their works?

· Accuracy / validity

o What supporting evidence (e.g., references) is provided?

o Do other sources say the same thing?

o Are the conclusions reached logical based on the data presented?

· Biases – may have an effect on the information presented

o Who is funding/sponsoring the study?

o What are the author/editor’s affiliations?  Political viewpoints?  Religious beliefs?

o Is there balanced coverage, where all aspects of the subject are discussed to the same level of detail?

o Is it just-the-facts being presented or an interpretation of the facts?

o Are assumptions or opinions being made without supporting evidence?

o What is the context in which the information was created?

· Purpose & intended audience – this affects how the information is presented

· Referrals – Further Reading suggestions or hyperlinks if it’s a Web site

 


TIP:  The general rule of thumb has been that .gov (and most .edu) Web sites are usually reliable; however, you should evaluate those just as you would the .org and .com sites!


 

Also consider - is it "good" research?  Think about the following... 

o Design of study:  is the design appropriate to the problem/question being studied? 

o Data Collectors:  how qualified were they?

o Sampling:  how many "subjects" were studied and how were they chosen?

o Statistics:  how sound is the approach/method used?

     o Bias:  in sampling, due to sponsorship of research, etc.

 


Click on the links below for more information about evaluating information sources:

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