January 20 2013

Wikipedian in Residence

by Barbie in Academia, Research

Previously on the blog, we’ve discussed when to use wikis for research and when to avoid them. Generally, we discourage the use of wikis due to the anonymous authors. How do we know that the author of a Wikipedia page, for example, is an educated and reputable source on the subject?

Now, Wikipedia is working to become a more reputable site by establishing Wikipedians in Residence. As this blog post from the Chronicle of Higher Education explains, Wikipedians in Residence are Wikipedia editors placed on site at institutions, such as the Gerald R. Ford Library at the University of Michigan. The duty of these editors is to boost the institution’s profile on Wikipedia.

If Wikipedia becomes populated with more information from libraries, museums, and archives from across the world, we might change our tune about using the site for research.

 

May 30 2012

Web research: Evaluating online sources

by Barbie in Research

This week, we’ve been discussing ways to effectively conduct research on the web. We’ve talked about how to optimize your search results and why you should avoid sites such as Wikipedia. Today, in the final post in our web research series, we’re offering some tips on evaluating online sources to determine if they are credible. When you discover a potential source on the web, here are some things to consider:

  • What type of website is it? A .edu, .gov, or even .org site often comes from a reputable source, such as a university, governmental organization, or professional organization. Such websites can be trusted as reliable and credible authorities on a range of topics.
  • Is an author listed? If so, run a quick search on the author (or look for an About page) to find out about the author’s background and expertise. Does it relate to the website’s content? If you can’t find an author or can’t deem the author credible, don’t use the website.
  • Is there a date that the content was published? Not every source you use has to be recent, but websites that aren’t monitored might be offering outdated or even inaccurate information.
  • Is the website selling a product? Often, retail websites attract visitors by offering articles that promote their products. These sources are biased and often developed without much research just to increase site hits.
  • Does the site offer original content? Many “content mills” on the web, which Google is quickly eliminating from search results, repurpose content from other sources. If the information includes a list of references, check them out — you might be able to find a more legitimate original source elsewhere on the web.

Use your best judgment when it comes to selecting web sources. If the website doesn’t seem legitimate, it probably isn’t. The Internet makes a wealth of information on a range of topics more accessible. By choosing reputable, credible web sources, you can bolster the legitimacy of your paper. Choose wisely.

May 29 2012

Web research: Wikis

by Barbie in Research

Wiki (noun): A website that allows users to add, modify, or delete content

Wikis have gained popularity in recent years, allowing web users from across the globe to collaborate on projects and share ideas and information. Wikis are even used in the classroom for projects, and when used appropriately, they can be effective learning tools. However, wikis aren’t exactly a reputable web source.

When you search for nearly any term, chances are a Wikipedia entry for the term is going to pop up on the first page of your search results, especially if you’re using Google. Wikipedia looks professional; it sells itself as an online encyclopedia, and you’ve probably been using encyclopedias for research since middle school. However, using Wikipedia as a source is a risky endeavor.

Wikipedia entries (and many other wikis) are developed anonymously. You have no way to verify the credibility of the author, his or her background or experience, or even the accuracy of the content. Wikipedia entries might sound legitimate — and, surely, some of the content is accurate — but anonymous-source webpages are not accurate or reputable sources.

You can use Wikipedia to your advantage, however. Scroll to the bottom of the entry to the References list. Here, you’ll find the sources that the wiki contributors used to develop the content. You can often find legitmate .edu or .gov sites in the References list. Use these direct, not to mention more reputable, sources when conducting research.

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss ways to evaluate the legitimacy and reliability of a web source.

May 28 2012

Web research: Maximizing your search results

by Barbie in Research

Researching has become much easier for today’s students, as an infinite amount of information is now just a click away. However, the Internet also features a great deal of inaccurate information from less-than-reputable sources. How do you distinguish between quality web sources and illegitimate ones? Here are a few tips.

  • Narrow your search results to focus on reputable websites. You can search within a specific type of website, such as .edu or.gov, which are often the most reputable sites out there. In your search bar, type the search term followed by site:.edu or site:.gov. This will narrow the search results to websites within this domain.
  • Visit online libraries and databases. Often, the best sources on the web are ones that originated in hard-copy form. There are countless databases where you can search academic literature and journal articles, allowing you to discover reputable, published studies on the web. Your school library’s website is a smart place to start your search.
  • Try Google Scholar. You can search scholarly literature across disciplines in one quick search.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our web research series tomorrow!

May 27 2012

Web research series

by Barbie in Research

While we’re vacationing this week, we wanted to offer a three-part series on web research. Many of our clients spend months, if not years, of their graduate school careers researching literature for their theses and dissertations. This week’s blog posts will focus on web research and the best ways to find high-quality, reliable sources for academic papers and beyond. Check back tomorrow of the launch of this helpful series!

In the meantime, please continue to send us your projects for June! We are checking email during vacation and scheduling projects for the remainder of the summer!

April 26 2012

Editing a list of references

by Barbie in Research, Style

Admit it: Your list of references can be a pain. Compiling all of the sources you used during your research and then finding all sorts of information for each source — from the editors and translators to the publisher, location, and year — is a time-consuming task. There are bound to be some mistakes in this tedious work. That’s why it’s important to have an editor who knows your style guide meticulously review your list of references.

Here are some of the things we check when we’re editing references:

  • Do the links work? We copy and paste every link into a web browser to ensure it’s up to date.
  • Are the right number of authors listed? Each style guide has different rules for how to list authors. We make sure they’re correct.
  • Is the source reputable? Anonymous blog posts and sites like Wikipedia aren’t reliable sources of information.
  • Is all of the right information included for each source? For example, journal articles require an article title, journal title, volume and issue numbers, page numbers, and often a URL.
  • Is the information formatted properly? APA calls for book titles to be italicized and sentence case, while journal articles are normal text and sentence case. Journal titles are italicized and title case. Confused yet?

A lot can go wrong in a list of references. We can make sure your sources are right. We know AMA, AP, APA, MLA, and Chicago. Contact us today!

December 20 2011

Editing a List of References

by Barbie in Research, Writing

When you’re writing a lengthy document like a thesis or dissertation, keeping track of your references can be challenging. Every source you cite needs to have a detailed entry on your List of References. In addition to providing the author(s), year of publication, title, publisher, and more, you have to ensure your references follow your style guide.

That’s where we come in. When we edit your document, we check every in-text citation against the references to verify the following:

  • Consistent spelling of author names and titles
  • Correct year
  • Valid entry in references

More often than not, we discover that a client unintentionally left off a few references, which is no surprise since such lengthy academic documents include dozens, if not hundreds, of sources.

Checking your references one by one is a tedious process. So, let us do it for you. This service is part of any comprehensive edit, but we can check your references as a separate service as well. Contact us today!

October 3 2011

Researching on the web

by Barbie in Research

We’ve noticed that many of our graduate-student clients are using Google Scholar as a search engine for their literature reviews. This search function is useful and allows you to eliminate much of the junk that web searches will bring up. With Google Scholar, you can search in specific subject areas by keyword, author name, or date. You can even pull up legal opinions and journals in specific states.

We just wanted to remind you of this useful resource for students and researchers alike!