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Finding the Right Information Online: Introduction

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Why is it important to be careful about where you get your information from? For both your assignments and your personal life, it is crucial to make sure you are getting correct, accurate, information. Doing so means your assignments will be of a high standard, and you will not be misled when you make important decisions or form opinions.

All the information that you use in your essays and assignments should be analysed closely to make sure it is scholarly, and appropriate for your uses. Books and academic journals that are in the IADT Library have been checked by librarians to make sure they are of a good standard, and so have been included in our collections. 

Not all information has gone through this check, and so it is up to you to learn how to distinguish the good information from the bad. In this guide, you will find information on the different types of sources, what to look out for, what to consider, and what you should use in your assignments. 

Where can I find information?

The first obvious step is to do a Google search. Google is a great way to get a broad overview and a general idea of a topic. 

However, the results you will find on from a Google Search are, for the most part, not considered scholarly.

See the box below for tips on where to find information and what to look for in each one. Words in bold are defined in the box to the right. 

Often the most reliable place to get information for your assignments, as the majority of journals are peer-reviewed.

Journal articles:

  • Contain detailed, in-depth information.
  • Are written by experts in the field.
  • Contain recent research on a topic.
  • Contain an abstract.
  • Are written in academic language.
  • Are aimed at the academic community.
  • Are peer-reviewed.
  • Contain references to other reliable academic sources.
  • Have information that can be checked to see if it's accurate.
  • Are written by an author with proper academic credentials. 
  • Are usually found in library databases or on Google Scholar.

The above list can be used to check if what you are reading is an academic journal, or is an opinion article in a magazine or on a website.

 

Books are another reliable source for information for your assignments. Depending on the subject, books can be less useful than academic journals, as they are published less frequently and so may not be as up to date. 

Books:

  • Contain thorough, well-researched information.
  • Primary and secondary sources.
  • Background and historical/contextual information.
  • Contain a bibliography of other sources.
  • Contain information that can be fact-checked for accuracy.
  • Are published once and sometimes updated in new editions. Always try to look for the most recent edition. 

Newspaper sources are generally reliable, depending on the reputation of the publishers. Tabloid newspapers are not usually considered a reliable source of information, as they have a reputation for printing exaggerations and untruths. Broadsheet newspapers like The Irish Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, etc. would be more acceptable to draw information from. 

Newspapers:

  • Are written by authors, journalists, and witnesses. 
  • Contain daily or weekly information.
  • Are aimed at the general public.
  • Contain detailed and sometimes graphic information on an issue. 

It is important to remember that newspapers often operate under a bias, and may report the news as such. For example, in the UK, The Guardian is considered a more left-wing newspaper, while The Times would be considered more conservative/right-wing. These political leanings can affect how a story is reported. 

Websites are the first thing we all go to when trying to find out information. However, remember that website sources have to be considered carefully, as the information can be published without going through any checks. Please see the infographic below for more detailed information.

Popular magazines can be a good source for information, provided, again, the publication has a strong reputation. Magazines can be a rich source of information on the arts especially, including personal profiles on creators, artists, filmmakers, actors, writers, etc.

Magazines:

  • Are written to entertain and inform.
  • Often aimed at a specific audience.
  • Contain current information.
  • Do not contain references.
  • Contain a large number of images and illustrations.

Websites

Websites are another widely used place to find information, but there is much more to consider when it comes to using them as sources. Most information that is published on the Web is not edited, filtered, and evaluated like books, journals, magazines, or newspapers. There are no guidelines for publishing online - i.e. anyone can have a website and publish anything they want on it. Therefore, it is important to evaluate websites before including them in an assignment. 

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IADT LibGuides are licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC-BY-NC 4.0)

Definitions

  • Abstract: An abstract is a brief summary of a research article. It is on the front page of the article and usually gives information to allow you to quickly figure out if the article is any use to you, such as research method, findings, analysis, and results.
  • Bias: Bias is showing favouritism towards one side or another, whether it be an idea, an argument, or an opinion. It is the opposite of being fair and impartial. A biased account of something will not show all sides to be considered and will often leave out information or present it in a misleading way.
  • Bibliography: A list of the sources you used when writing an article or assignment. It is sometimes called a reference list.
  • Broadsheet: Broadsheet newspapers are considered more serious and reliable, and less sensationalist, than their tabloid equivalents. They are called broadsheets because of the large sheets of paper they are printed on. Examples of broadsheets are the Irish Times, the Irish Independent, the Guardian, and the New York Times.
  • Google Scholar: This is a search engine that only provided results that are scholarly articles, reports, online books etc. It can provide either a PDF of an article, or provide a citation which you can use to find the article somewhere else. Do still make sure that a source you find on Google Scholar is reliable and good quality.
  • Peer-reviewed: An article written by an expert which is checked over by other experts in the field review the article before it is published to make sure it is of­ high quality. A peer-reviewed article is more likely to be valid, to reach reasonable and possible conclusions, etc.
  • Primary and secondary sources: A primary source is something that is a first-hand account of a topic from someone who was there/who had a direct connection to it. For example, a newspaper article, a tweet, a legal document.

A secondary source is removed from primary sources, and usually provides commentary, analysis, or interpretation of a topic. A classic example of this is a textbook, which is not written by someone who was there at an event – instead it talks about it in a removed way.  

  • Scholarly: Scholarly articles means articles that come from serious academic study. Scholarly is sometimes used in the same way as “peer-reviewed”. You will not find scholarly articles in popular magazines or newspapers. They are found in library databases, Google Scholar, etc.
  • Tabloid:  A tabloid newspaper contains news stories presented in a dramatic and sensationalist way. They are considered less reliable than broadsheet newspapers, as their emphasis on journalistic integrity is not as strong. They report on celebrity gossip, astrology, sensationalist crime stories, short articles and lots of pictures. Examples of tabloid newspapers include the Irish Daily Star, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, and the Sun.

Contact Us!

Library staff are available to provide help and answer queries online and remotely.

The library will monitor communications received via social media and email. Consultation services for students and researchers may be possible through email and other online communication channels.

E: infolib@iadt.ie

T: @IADTlibrary