Outcome: Finding Sources

Analyze primary, intermediate, and advanced search techniques

Wikipedia is often the first stop on the research train, and for good reason. You can easily find concise, informative explanations on nearly any topic, and even investigate further using links and footnotes. Although it’s a great beginning research tool, anyone, regardless of background, qualifications, or expertise, can write Wikipedia articles. As a result, articles can display incorrect information.

Screen Shot, Top of Wikipedia article for John Seigenthaler. "From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (Redirected from Seigenthaler, John.) This article is about the political editor. For his son, see John Seigenthaler (anchorman). This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (October 2014) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)"

There are many examples of such incorrect information on Wikipedia. Perhaps the most infamous involves the Wikipedia article on John Seigenthaler (former journalist, political advisor, and father of the reporter of the same name on NBC news). Brian Chase changed the article to indicate that Seigenthaler played a role in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert. This untrue contribution lasted for 132 days (Page, “Wikipedia Biography”). Seigenthaler was understandably upset, which he reported vociferously in an article in USA Today. Were someone to take Wikipedia’s John Seigenthaler’s article at face value during this time, she or he would come to the wrong conclusion about Seigenthaler.

If you quote or paraphrase a Wikipedia article as an authoritative source, then, you are potentially making a claim based on wrong information, and using incorrect information is not a good way to make a convincing argument. Because the internet offers publishing capabilities to anyone, anytime, it’s not just Wikipedia that offers a false sense of security in its information.You should, therefore, read critically all sources, not just Wikipedia articles.

It’s always a good idea to verify information in multiple sources. To ensure a better chance of accuracy, though, college-level research-based writing assignments generally ask you to use sources written by academic professionals and recognized experts. In this section, you’ll learn how follow the research process in order to carefully use search engines and library databases to find scholarly articles.

What You Will Learn To Do

  • analyze preliminary research strategies (developing a research plan, basic online searching, using Google)
  • analyze intermediate research strategies (advanced online searches, finding scholarly sources and primary and secondary sources, basic library searches, librarian consultation)
  • analyze advanced search strategies (advanced library searches, reading academic texts, using library databases)