Learn to Find, Access, and Manage Information

Ask a Librarian

Judging reliability and relevance

What is this about?

  • Does it have the kind of information you need? Look at the title, abstract, subject headings, table of contents, web address or other descriptors.
  • If the information is contradictory to what you know, can it be verified? How does that affect your topic?
  • Is the work scholarly or popular? Is the research methodology described? Are sources of information cited in text or bibliographies?
  • Does it omit important and relevant information, or have an emotional writing style? These are clues into the author's bias.

Who created this?

  • Check the preface or introduction. Look for About the Author/About Us links.
  • Look at the parts of web addresses to find organizational information.
  • Verify authors' qualifications with other sources like their other journal articles and institution web pages where they work.

Where is the information coming from?

Why was this created?

  • Think about whether this was intended to inform, persuade, entertain, instruct, or sell.
  • Was it written for scholars, the public, professionals, or students?
  • Look for mission statements for whole journals, about us statements, or purpose statements. For web sites, the links and advertising on the page give clues about the intended audience.

When was the information created?

  • Is the date of publication or copyright important for the timeliness of the content?
  • Is there a more recent edition? When was the site last modified or updated?
  • When was the research conducted?

<< Return to research steps

popular articles
Articles that report current events and entertain or summarize research of general interest for the general public. Usually written by journalists or general staff writers.
scholarly articles
Articles that report the results of research or analytical studies for scholars, researchers, and students in a particular field of study. Usually written by researchers and experts in their field.
Academic Press
Publishing press associated with a university or other academic institution (aka: University Press). (ODLIS)
Information needed to clearly identify an item. For a book, this includes the author, title, place of publication, publisher, and year. For an article, this includes, the author, title of article, title of source, volume number, pages, and date.
Subject headings
The most specific word or phrase that describes the subject, or one of the subjects, of a work. In library cataloging, a book or other item is assigned one or more subject headings as access points, to assist users in locating its content by subject. (ODLIS)
The name of a library and its floor/room where you can find the item you searched.
call number
The combination of letters and numbers assigned to library materials to designate where items are shelved. Call numbers enable material to be arranged by subject on the shelves. Bates College, Ladd Library Glossary
stack guide
A guide that shows where you can find a book with a specific call number.
Chicago Manual of Style
A style guide for American English published by the University of Chicago Press.
For more detail, see UW-Madison Writing Center.
WorldCat is a catalog that shows what libraries all over the world (though especially in the USA) have in their collections. (From Colorado College, Tutt Library glossary)
peer review
The process in which a publication is submitted by the prospective publisher to experts in the field for critical evaluation prior to publication. (ODLIS)
A list of resources (books, journal articles, or other documents) about a specific subject. May fill a whole book or be at the end of a book or article.    (Bates College, Ladd Library Glossary)
A brief summary of an article.
The citation style established by the American Psychological Association for research papers in social studies. For more detail, see UW-Madison Writing Center.
The citation style established by the Modern Language Association for acknowledging sources used in a research paper in humanities. For more detail, see UW-Madison Writing Center.
Full text
Indicates that the entire text of an item is available electronically.
A collection of records that can be searched by computer. In libraries, it usually means online indexes of journal articles. (Bates College)
E-Resource Gateway
One of the UW-Madison’s online resources via which you can search article databases.
Any one of the topics or themes of a work.
Find It
By clicking the Find It button, you can find out whether the full text of your article is available online or physically available in a library.
Learning concerned with human culture, especially literature, history, art, music, and philosophy. (Oxford Dictionary of English)
Primary source
A document or record containing firsthand information or original data on a topic. (ODLIS)
A word or phrase that describes the content of a book or an article (aka: Keyword).
A significant word or phrase in the title, subject headings, contents note, abstract, or text of a record in an online catalog or bibliographic database that can be used as a search term to retrieve all the records containing it. (ODLIS)
An entry representing a specific item in a library catalog or bibliographic database, containing all the data elements necessary for a full description, presented in a specific bibliographic format (aka: Bibliographic record). (ODLIS)
Library Express
The UW-Madison's document delivery and interlibrary loan service (aka: Inter Library Loan) .
Commercial Publisher
A publisher in the business of producing and selling books for profit. (ODLIS)
Government agency
A unit of government authorized by law or regulation to perform a specific function. (ODLIS)
A publication that contains articles written for scholars by researchers or experts in a subject area.
General Resources
Resources that cover non-specialized topics.
Trade Journal
A periodical devoted to disseminating news and information of interest to a specific category of business or industry. (ODLIS)
Scholarly Journal
A journal that contains scholarly articles.  Scholarly articles are articles that report the results of research or analytical studies for scholars, researchers, and students in a particular field of study. Usually written by researchers and experts in their field.
Popular Journal
A journal that contains articles that are written for a general audience and does not go through the peer review process.

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