Think about the information you have found

Think about the information you have found

Thinking critically about information was a key skill Professor Tapsell and Doctor Peoples mentioned in the video. Your critical thinking skills will be improved by developing your ability to evaluate information.

Who wrote it?

  • Can you find qualifications or experience for the author/s that match the content?
  • Has an organisation or government body produced the information?
  • No author? Is it pushing a certain point of view?

Is it current?

  • Is it recent research or out of date?
  • Does the publication date reflect the time period you are researching? If older, is it a seminal or important work about the topic?

Does it provide evidence/have authority?

Compare your results:

  • Are they from reputable sources? (e.g. academic, scholarly, government publications)
  • Can you verify that the author(s) an expert in their field?
  • Does the information give a biased viewpoint or does it show a balanced approach?

Does it match the topic?

If you can't identify good results with your keywords appearing in the title, abstract or introduction run a new search:

  • Use different keywords or subject headings that you have identified from previous good results
  • Broaden your search using OR or narrow it using AND
  • Try shortening word endings using the truncation symbol

Activity: Evaluate one of the articles you found using Summon

  1. 1. Where did the information come from? Look in the text, footnotes or bibliography.
    1. This could be good for background information, but might not be reliable enough to use for your assignment.

    2. This is good. This makes it possible to verify the author’s sources of information.

    3. Be careful as the research needs to be verified. If you cannot locate the original research, it may be necessary to find a more reliable source.

    4. This is great! Use the bibliography to find additional resources or information.

  2. 2. Are there signs of bias? Do you notice any of the following?
    1. This might still be okay to use, especially if the author is a known expert in the field. Be sure to find additional information that balances the argument.

    2. Be careful using these types of resources; it might be okay if they are a recognised expert. What can you find out about the author? Are their qualifications relevant to the topic?

    3. Be careful using these types of resources. What can you find out about the author? Is there a conflict of interest?

    4. This could mean that the paper will show the sponsor or industry in an overly favourable light. Be sure to find information that balances the company’s interest.

    5. This is good, but be sure to use a range of viewpoints.

  3. 3. Are there any authors?
    1. This is not good, because the possibility of checking the author's background or qualifications is limited.

    2. This is not good, because there is no way of checking on the author's background or qualifications.

    3. This is good. This allows for verification of author qualifications and if these are relevant to the topic.

    4. This could still be okay, but be aware of potential bias.

  4. 4. Are the author's qualifications and experience related to the topic?
    1. This is good. This allows for the verification of author qualifications and whether these are relevant to the topic.

    2. Be careful as the author may be well known but may not be a recognised expert in the field, and may therefore present a biased viewpoint.

    3. Be careful. Look closely at the author’s background and the type of publication to see whether it is academic, trade, or popular. If the publication is peer reviewed then the research should be okay to use.

Work smarter; make your research count

  • You will not find everything in one book or article; you will need several information sources to cover all aspects of your assignment well
  • Did your lecturer ask you to read a particular paper? If so, read it, check for keywords and look at the papers the author(s) cited in the reference list
  • Has your lecturer or tutor mentioned the name of researchers working in this field? Include these names as search terms to see what they have written
  • Improve your critical reading with strategies from University of New South Wales
Last reviewed: 24 April, 2014
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