Reference Research Papers

Citation–Sequence and Citation–Name

The following examples illustrate the citation–sequence and citation–name systems. The two systems are identical except for the order of references. In both systems, numbers within the text refer to the end references.

In citation–sequence, the end references are listed in the sequence in which they first appear within the text. For example, if a reference by Smith is the first one mentioned in the text, then the complete reference to the Smith work will be number 1 in the end references. The same number is used for subsequent in-text references to the same document.

In citation–name, the end references are listed alphabetically by author. Multiple works by the same author are listed alphabetically by title. The references are numbered in that sequence, such that a work authored by Adam is number 1, Brown is number 2, and so on. Numbers assigned to the end references are used for the in-text references regardless of the sequence in which they appear in the text of the work. For example, if a work by Zielinski is number 56 in the reference list, each in-text reference to Zielinski will be number 56 also.

Journals

List authors in the order in which they appear in the original text, followed by a period. Periods also follow article and journal title and volume or issue information. Separate the date from volume and issue by a semicolon. The location (usually the page range for the article) is preceded by a colon.

Author(s). Article title. Journal title. Date;volume(issue):location.

Journal titles are generally abbreviated according to the List of Title Word Abbreviations maintained by the ISSN International Centre. See Appendix 29.1 in Scientific Style and Format for more information.

For articles with more than 1 author, names are separated by a comma.

Smart N, Fang ZY, Marwick TH. A practical guide to exercise training for heart failure patients. J Card Fail. 2003;9(1):49–58.

For articles with more than 10 authors, list the first 10 followed by “et al.”

Pizzi C, Caraglia M, Cianciulli M, Fabbrocini A, Libroia A, Matano E, Contegiacomo A, Del Prete S, Abbruzzese A, Martignetti A, et al. Low-dose recombinant IL-2 induces psychological changes: monitoring by Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Anticancer Res. 2002;22(2A):727–732.

Volume with no issue or other subdivision

Laskowski DA. Physical and chemical properties of pyrethroids. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 2002;174:49–170.

Volume with issue and supplement

Gardos G, Cole JO, Haskell D, Marby D, Paine SS, Moore P. The natural history of tardive dyskinesia. J Clin Pharmacol. 1988;8(4 Suppl):31S–37S

Volume with supplement but no issue

Heemskerk J, Tobin AJ, Ravina B. From chemical to drug: neurodegeneration drug screening and the ethics of clinical trials. Nat Neurosci. 2002;5 Suppl:1027–1029.

Multiple issue numbers

Ramstrom O, Bunyapaiboonsri T, Lohmann S, Lehn JM. Chemical biology of dynamic combinatorial libraries. Biochim Biophys Acta. 2002;1572(2–3):178–186.

Issue with no volume

Sabatier R. Reorienting health and social services. AIDS STD Health Promot Exch. 1995;(4):1–3.

Books

Separate information about author(s), title, edition, and publication by periods. The basic format is as follows:

Author(s). Title. Edition. Place of publication: publisher; date. Extent. Notes.

Extent can include information about pagination or number of volumes and is considered optional. Notes can include information of interest to the reader, such as language of publication other than English; such notes are optional.

Essential notes provide information about location, such as a URL for online works. See Chapter 29 for more information.

For books with more than 1 author, names are separated by a comma.

Ferrozzi F, Garlaschi G, Bova D. CT of metastases. New York (NY): Springer; 2000.

For books with more than 10 authors, list the first 10 followed by “et al.”

Wenger NK, Sivarajan Froelicher E, Smith LK, Ades PA, Berra K, Blumenthal JA, Certo CME, Dattilo AM, Davis D, DeBusk RF, et al. Cardiac rehabilitation. Rockville (MD): Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (US); 1995.

Organization as author

Advanced Life Support Group. Acute medical emergencies: the practical approach. London (England): BMJ Books; 2001.

Author(s) plus editor(s) or translator(s)

Klarsfeld A, Revah F. The biology of death: origins of mortality. Brady L, translator. Ithaca (NY): Cornell University Press; 2003.

Luzikov VN. Mitochondrial biogenesis and breakdown. Galkin AV, translator; Roodyn DB, editor. New York (NY): Consultants Bureau; 1985.

Chapter or other part of a book, same author(s)

Gawande A. The checklist manifesto: how to get things right. New York (NY): Metropolitan Books; 2010. Chapter 3, The end of the master builder; p. 48–71.

Chapter or other part of a book, different authors

Rapley R. Recombinant DNA and genetic analysis. In: Wilson K, Walker J, editors. Principles and techniques of biochemistry and molecular biology. 7th ed. New York (NY): Cambridge University Press; 2010. p. 195–262.

Multivolume work as a whole

Alkire LG, editor. Periodical title abbreviations. 16th ed. Detroit (MI): Thompson Gale; 2006. 2 vol. Vol. 1, By abbreviation; vol. 2, By title.

Dissertations and Theses

Lutz M. 1903: American nervousness and the economy of cultural change [dissertation]. [Stanford (CA)]: Stanford University; 1989.

Patents

Blanco EE, Meade JC, Richards WD, inventors; Ophthalmic Ventures, assignee. Surgical stapling system. United States patent US 4,969,591. 1990 Nov 13.

Newspapers

Weiss R. Study shows problems in cloning people: researchers find replicating primates will be harder than other mammals. Washington Post (Home Ed.). 2003 Apr 11;Sect. A:12 (col. 1).

DVDs

Indicate a copyright date with a lowercase “c”.

Johnson D, editor. Surgical techniques in orthopaedics: anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction [DVD]. Rosemont (IL): American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons; c2002. 1 DVD.

Websites and Other Online Formats

References to websites and other online formats follow the same general principles as for printed references, with the addition of a date of update/revision (if available) along with an access date and a URL.

Website

Format:

Title of Homepage. Edition. Place of publication: publisher; date of publication [date updated; date accessed]. Notes.

If no date of publication can be determined, use a copyright date (if available), preceded by “c”. Include the URL in the notes.

APSnet: plant pathology. St Paul (MN): American Phytopathological Association; c1994–2005 [accessed 2005 Jun 20]. http://www.apsnet.org/.

Online journal article

Format:

Author(s) of article. Title of article. Title of journal (edition). Date of publication [date updated; date accessed];volume(issue):location. Notes.

A DOI (Digital Object Identifier) may be included in the notes in addition to a URL, if available:

Savage E, Ramsay M, White J, Beard S, Lawson H, Hunjan R, Brown D. Mumps outbreaks across England and Wales in 2004: observational study. BMJ. 2005 [accessed 2005 May 31];330(7500):1119–1120. http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/reprint/330/7500/1119. doi:10.1136/bmj.330.7500.1119.

e-Book

Format:

Author(s). Title of book. Edition. Place of publication: publisher; date of publication [date updated; date accessed]. Notes.

Example:

Brogden KA, Guthmille JM, editors. Polymicrobial diseases. Washington (DC): ASM Press; 2002 [accessed February 28, 2014]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2475/.

Blog

Format:

Author’s name. Title of post [descriptive word]. Title of blog. Date of publication. [accessed date]. URL.

Example:

Fogarty M. Formatting titles on Twitter and Facebook [blog]. Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. 2012 Aug 14. [accessed 2012 Oct 19]. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/formatting-titles-on-twitter-and-facebook.aspx.

Forthcoming or Unpublished Material

Not all forthcoming or unpublished sources are suitable for inclusion in reference lists. Check with your publisher if in doubt.

Forthcoming journal article or book

Journal article:

Farley T, Galves A, Dickinson LM, Perez MJ. Stress, coping, and health: a comparison of Mexican immigrants, Mexican-Americans, and non-Hispanic whites. J Immigr Health. Forthcoming 2005 Jul.

Book:

Goldstein DS. Adrenaline and the inner world: an introduction to scientific integrative medicine. Baltimore (MD): Johns Hopkins University Press. Forthcoming 2006.

Paper or poster presented at meeting

Unpublished presentations are cited as follows:

Antani S, Long LR, Thoma GR, Lee DJ. Anatomical shape representation in spine x-ray images. Paper presented at: VIIP 2003. Proceedings of the 3rd IASTED International Conference on Visualization, Imaging and Image Processing; 2003 Sep 8–10; Benalmadena, Spain.

Charles L, Gordner R. Analysis of MedlinePlus en Español customer service requests. Poster session presented at: Futuro magnifico! Celebrating our diversity. MLA ’05: Medical Library Association Annual Meeting; 2005 May 14–19; San Antonio, TX.

References to published presentations are cited much like contributions to books, with the addition of information about the date and place of the conference. See Chapter 29 for more information.

Personal communication

References to personal communication are placed in running text rather than as formal end references.

Permission is usually required and should be acknowledged in an “Acknowledgment” or “Notes” section at the end of the document.

. . . and most of these meningiomas proved to be inoperable (2003 letter from RS Grant to me; unreferenced, see “Notes”) while a few were not.

Name–Year

The following examples illustrate the name–year system. In this system (sometimes called the Harvard system), in-text references consist of the surname of the author or authors and the year of publication of the document. End references are unnumbered and appear in alphabetical order by author and year of publication, with multiple works by the same author listed in chronological order.

Each example of an end reference is accompanied here by an example of a corresponding in-text reference. For more details and many more examples, see Chapter 29 of Scientific Style and Format.

Journals

For the end reference, list authors in the order in which they appear in the original text. The year of publication follows the author list. Use periods to separate each element, including author(s), date of publication, article and journal title, and volume or issue information. Location (usually the page range for the article) is preceded by a colon.

Author(s). Date. Article title. Journal title. Volume(issue):location.

Journal titles are generally abbreviated according to the List of Title Word Abbreviations maintained by the ISSN International Centre. See Appendix 29.1 in Scientific Style and Format for more information.

For the in-text reference, use parentheses and list author(s) by surname followed by year of publication.

(Author(s) Year)

For articles with 2 authors, names are separated by a comma in the end reference but by “and” in the in-text reference.

Mazan MR, Hoffman AM. 2001. Effects of aerosolized albuterol on physiologic responses to exercise in standardbreds. Am J Vet Res. 62(11):1812–1817.

(Mazan and Hoffman 2001)

For articles with 3 to 10 authors, list all authors in the end reference; in the in-text reference, list only the first, followed by “et al.”

Smart N, Fang ZY, Marwick TH. 2003. A practical guide to exercise training for heart failure patients. J Card Fail. 9(1):49–58.

(Smart et al. 2003)

For articles with more than 10 authors, list the first 10 in the end reference, followed by “et al.”

Pizzi C, Caraglia M, Cianciulli M, Fabbrocini A, Libroia A, Matano E, Contegiacomo A, Del Prete S, Abbruzzese A, Martignetti A, et al. 2002. Low-dose recombinant IL-2 induces psychological changes: monitoring by Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI). Anticancer Res. 22(2A):727–732.

(Pizzi et al. 2002)

Volume with no issue or other subdivision

Laskowski DA. 2002. Physical and chemical properties of pyrethroids. Rev Environ Contam Toxicol. 174:49–170.

(Laskowski 2002)

Volume with issue and supplement

Gardos G, Cole JO, Haskell D, Marby D, Paine SS, Moore P. 1988. The natural history of tardive dyskinesia. J Clin Pharmacol. 8(4 Suppl):31S–37S.

(Gardos et al. 1988)

Volume with supplement but no issue

Heemskerk J, Tobin AJ, Ravina B. 2002. From chemical to drug: neurodegeneration drug screening and the ethics of clinical trials. Nat Neurosci. 5 Suppl:1027–1029.

(Heemskerk et al. 2002)

Multiple issue numbers

Ramstrom O, Bunyapaiboonsri T, Lohmann S, Lehn JM. 2002. Chemical biology of dynamic combinatorial libraries. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1572(2–3):178–186.

(Ramstrom et al. 2002)

Issue with no volume

Sabatier R. 1995. Reorienting health and social services. AIDS STD Health Promot Exch. (4):1–3.

(Sabatier 1995)

Books

In the end reference, separate information about author(s), date, title, edition, and publication by periods. The basic format is as follows:

Author(s). Date. Title. Edition. Place of publication: publisher. Extent. Notes.

Extent can include information about pagination or number of volumes and is considered optional. Notes can include information of interest to the reader, such as language of publication other than English; such notes are optional. Essential notes provide information about location, such as a URL for online works. See Chapter 29 for more information.

For books with 2 authors, names are separated by a comma in the end reference but by “and” in the in-text reference.

Leboffe MJ, Pierce BE. 2010. Microbiology: laboratory theory and application. Englewood (CO): Morton Publishing Company.

(Leboffe and Pierce 2010)

For books with 3 to 10 authors, list all authors in the end reference; in the in-text reference, list only the first, followed by “et al.”

Ferrozzi F, Garlaschi G, Bova D. 2000. CT of metastases. New York (NY): Springer.

(Ferrozzi et al. 2000)

For books with more than 10 authors, list the first 10 in the end reference, followed by “et al.”

Wenger NK, Sivarajan Froelicher E, Smith LK, Ades PA, Berra K, Blumenthal JA, Certo CME, Dattilo AM, Davis D, DeBusk RF, et al. 1995. Cardiac rehabilitation. Rockville (MD): Agency for Health Care Policy and Research (US).

(Wenger et al. 1995)

Organization as author

[ALSG] Advanced Life Support Group. 2001. Acute medical emergencies: the practical approach. London (England): BMJ Books.

(ALSG 2001)

Author(s) plus editor(s) or translator(s)

Klarsfeld A, Revah F. 2003. The biology of death: origins of mortality. Brady L, translator. Ithaca (NY): Cornell University Press.

Luzikov VN. 1985. Mitochondrial biogenesis and breakdown. Galkin AV, translator; Roodyn DB, editor. New York (NY): Consultants Bureau.

(Klarsfeld and Revah 2003)

(Luzikov 1985)

Chapter or other part of a book, same author(s)

Gawande A. 2010. The checklist manifesto: how to get things right. New York (NY): Metropolitan Books. Chapter 3, The end of the master builder; p. 48–71.

(Gawande 2010)

Chapter or other part of a book, different authors

Rapley R. 2010. Recombinant DNA and genetic analysis. In: Wilson K, Walker J, editors. Principles and techniques of biochemistry and molecular biology. 7th ed. New York (NY): Cambridge University Press. p. 195–262.

(Rapley 2010)

Multivolume work as a whole

Alkire LG, editor. 2006. Periodical title abbreviations. 16th ed. Detroit (MI): Thompson Gale. 2 vol. Vol. 1, By abbreviation; vol. 2, By title.

(Alkire 2006)

Dissertations and Theses

Lutz M. 1989. 1903: American nervousness and the economy of cultural change [dissertation]. [Stanford (CA)]: Stanford University.

(Lutz 1989)

Patents

Blanco EE, Meade JC, Richards WD, inventors; Ophthalmic Ventures, assignee. 1990 Nov 13. Surgical stapling system. United States patent US 4,969,591.

(Blanco et al. 1990)

Newspapers

Weiss R. 2003 Apr 11. Study shows problems in cloning people: researchers find replicating primates will be harder than other mammals. Washington Post (Home Ed.). Sect. A:12 (col. 1).

(Weiss 2003)

DVDs

Indicate a copyright date with a lowercase “c”.

Johnson D, editor. c2002. Surgical techniques in orthopaedics: anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction [DVD]. Rosemont (IL): American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 1 DVD.

(Johnson c2002)

Websites and Other Online Formats

References to websites and other online formats follow the same general principles as for printed references, with the addition of a date of update/revision (if available) along with an access date and a URL.

Website

Format for end reference:

Title of Homepage. Date of publication. Edition. Place of publication: publisher; [date updated; date accessed]. Notes.

If no date of publication can be determined, use a copyright date (if available), preceded by “c”. Include the URL in the notes.

APSnet: plant pathology online. c1994–2005. St Paul (MN): American Phytopathological Association; [accessed 2005 Jun 20]. http://www.apsnet.org/.

For the in-text reference, include only the first word or two of the title (enough to distinguish it from other titles in the reference list), followed by an ellipsis.

(APSnet . . . c1994–2005)

Online journal article

Format for end reference:

Author(s) of article. Date of publication. Title of article. Title of journal (edition). [date updated; date accessed];Volume(issue):location. Notes.

A DOI (Digital Object Identifier) may be included in the notes in addition to a URL, if available:

Savage E, Ramsay M, White J, Beard S, Lawson H, Hunjan R, Brown D. 2005. Mumps outbreaks across England and Wales in 2004: observational study. BMJ. [accessed 2005 May 31];330(7500):1119–1120. http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/reprint/330/7500/1119. doi:10.1136/bmj.330.7500.1119.

(Savage et al. 2005)

e-Book

Format for end reference:

Author(s). Date of publication. Title of book. Edition. Place of publication: publisher; [date updated; date accessed]. Notes.

Example:

Brogden KA, Guthmille JM, editors. 2002. Polymicrobial diseases. Washington (DC): ASM Press; [accessed February 28, 2014]. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK2475/.

(Brogden and Guthmille 2002)

Blog

Format for end reference:

Author’s name. Date of publication. Title of post [descriptive word]. Title of blog. [accessed date]. URL.

Example:

Fogarty M. 2012 Aug 14. Formatting titles on Twitter and Facebook [blog]. Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. [accessed 2012 Oct 19]. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/formatting-titles-on-twitter-and-facebook.aspx.

(Fogarty 2012)

Forthcoming or Unpublished Material

Not all forthcoming or unpublished sources are suitable for inclusion in reference lists. Check with your publisher if in doubt.

Forthcoming journal article or book

Journal article:

Farley T, Galves A, Dickinson LM, Perez MJ. Forthcoming 2005 Jul. Stress, coping, and health: a comparison of Mexican immigrants, Mexican-Americans, and non-Hispanic whites. J Immigr Health.

(Farley et al. 2005)

Book:

Goldstein DS. Forthcoming 2006. Adrenaline and the inner world: an introduction to scientific integrative medicine. Baltimore (MD): Johns Hopkins University Press.

(Goldstein 2006)

Paper or poster presented at meeting

Unpublished presentations are cited as follows:

Antani S, Long LR, Thoma GR, Lee DJ. 2003. Anatomical shape representation in spine x-ray images. Paper presented at: VIIP 2003. Proceedings of the 3rd IASTED International Conference on Visualization, Imaging and Image Processing; Benalmadena, Spain.

Charles L, Gordner R. 2005. Analysis of MedlinePlus en Español customer service requests. Poster session presented at: Futuro magnifico! Celebrating our diversity. MLA ’05: Medical Library Association Annual Meeting; San Antonio, TX.

(Atani et al. 2003)

(Charles and Gordner 2005)

References to published presentations are cited much like contributions to books, with the addition of information about the date and place of the conference. See Chapter 29 for more information.

Personal communication

References to personal communication are placed in running text rather than as formal end references. Permission is usually required and should be acknowledged in an “Acknowledgment” or “Notes” section at the end of the document.

. . . and most of these meningiomas proved to be inoperable (2003 letter from RS Grant to me; unreferenced, see “Notes”) while a few were not.

SUMMARY

  • Find credible sources using tools that are designed to find the types of sources you need.

LINKS

Here are some fantastic resources and tips on how to use them to their fullest extent:

Librarian/Digital Media Specialist/Teacher

– Tell one of these people your research topic and ask them to point you towards useful sources. Chances are that they know more about what’s available about your particular topic than you do. Depending on the size of your school, you may have a subject area librarian for the particular type of research you are doing. Some universities, for instance, have specialist librarians for topics like music, art, and humanities.

Tip: When asking your librarian or teacher, just be sure to be tactful. Remember: librarians are there to help, but they won’t do all your research for you.

Academic journals

– These journals are a great way to find cutting edge research on your topic. Academic journals add credibility and professionalism to a paper. They work well for both humanities and scientific papers. Most schools/universities have a subscription to a large database of academic journals. Some commonly used databases are JSTOR and EBSCO Host. If you don’t know what types of services your school subscribes to, ask your teacher/librarian about them.

Another great way to access academic papers is Google Scholar. It is a search tool that finds scholarly articles–academic journals, patents, theses, court proceedings, and more. Google Scholar displays how many times an academic piece of literature was cited, which is a rough numerical indicator of how influential the research was. Google Scholar also has link under each posting to help you find related articles.

Microsoft has a competitor to Google Scholar that is very similar, Microsoft Academic Search. Microsoft’s tool works particularly well for technical papers in fields such as physics, mathematics, biology, and engineering.

Books

– Books are still one of the best ways to find credible information about a source. Some fields such as the humanities prefer their students use books for sources rather than websites, since books typically contain more detailed information (and perhaps more in-depth thinking) than websites do. Books can be found on your school or public library website. Type in keywords related to your topic in the search field, and see what kinds of literature comes up. Write down the call number of the book so that you can find it within your library. Ask your librarian for help if you’re not sure how your library is organized.

Google has another service, Google Books, that will help you find books related to your topic. Just type your research topic into the field and Google Books will provide you with a list of relevant books. Once you click on a book you like, Google Books will give you a preview of the book and information related to buying the book or finding it in your library.

Websites

– Websites are sources you should approach with caution. Some experts publish great information on the Internet, but there’s a lot of bad information out there as well. The trick is to weed out the unreliable information. The section entitled “Evaluating sources for credibility” is all about that process. Here, we’ll discuss some great resources that will help you find good information.

Tip: Multipurpose search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo) aren’t necessarily trying to provide you with the best academic results. They help people with a lot of things (shopping, searching for flights, comparing restaurants). You don’t want all of these sorts of results to get mixed up in your research!

Here are some tools that help you find information for a particular field of interest:

SubjectName of toolComments
MedicalPubMedSearchable database of academic medical literature; managed by the US National Library of Medicine.
MedicalGoPubMedA feature-rich compilation of academic medical literature.
MedicalMedline PlusEasy-to-read guides and videos; not as technical as other medical search engines; managed by the National Institutes of Health,
HumanitiesJURNA curated search engine for humanities researchers.
HumanitiesProject MuseA database of over 200 non-profit publishers.
EconomicsNBER – National Bureau of Economic ResearchSearchable database of economic papers.
CrimeNational Criminal Justice Reference ServicesA database of articles about issues pertaining to the justice system, including court cases, crime prevention, drugs, etc.
GeneralOAIsterFeature-rich search tool for a variety of different sources; managed by the OCLC.
GeneralRefseekA powerful, general-purpose search engine that finds websites, academic papers, books, newspapers, and more. The site has a variety of features that help you narrow down your search.
GeneralSweet SearchA search engine crafted specifically for students. Every website that shows up as search result has been hand-picked by research experts.
GeneraliSeekAn education-focused general search engine with helpful tools to narrow down your search
Generalipl2The site contains a search engine and an index of helpful, credible sites arranged by topic.
GeneralEasyBib Research (Beta)EasyBIb research makes the bibliographies on our site searchable, so you can look at sources about your topic that other students are using.
ChemistryPubChemContains academic chemistry information; managed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
PhilosophyPhilPapersA database of academic papers related to philosophy.
ScienceScience.govA resource of scientific papers and information; overseen by the US government.
ScienceScirusA search engine geared towards scientific information.
ScienceDirectory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)A database of scholarly scientific information.
StatisticsUS Census BureauStatistics in the US, arranged topically (Education, Business, Agriculture, etc.).
StatisticsCIA World FactbookStatistics, reports, maps, history, and other information about 267 countries.

Tip: Many schools have online topic pages, where the school’s librarians have grouped together helpful resources dedicated to a particular topic like chemistry, history, or religious studies. The LibGuides at Rice University is one example.

 

1) A note on large search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo)

SUMMARY

  • Use Google when you are doing preliminary research or looking for a particular source
  • In other cases, you’re probably better off using a more academically-oriented source.

LINKS

As far as research is concerned, Google is a double-edged sword. (The pros/cons of Google apply to other major search engines such as Bing and Yahoo as well.)

First, the benefits of Google’s search engine: It’s fast and provides you with a lot of information.

But the list of negatives is weighty:

  • Many of Google’s search results are biased and non-academic.

    Several of the websites that appear in Google’s results are written by businessmen who are trying to sell you something. They aren’t interested in presenting you with unbiased data.

  • Google’s search results are tailored to you

    (based on your past browsing history, your location, the sites you’ve visited previously, etc.). The problem with this individualization of search results is that Google is not providing you with the best information, it’s giving you what it thinks you’ll click on. Those may be two separate things.

  • Google’s results are focused on information available on the internet space that is easily accessed.

    There is a large amount of great information available on the “invisible web” that Google cannot find. The invisible web consists of sites that are not linked to externally, which makes them hidden from Google’s searching and indexing software.

For these reasons, we have a couple of reservations about using Google’s search engine for research purposes. To help, we’ve drafted a couple general rules about when and when not to use Google.

Use Google’s search engine…

  • When you’re doing preliminary research (assessing the depth and breadth of your topic).
  • When you know of a specific source, and you just need to find it on the Internet.

Try using another resource other than Google’s search engine…

  • When you want to find an academic article.
  • When you’re looking for a primary source.
  • When you’re looking for a technical paper.

 

2) A note on Wikipedia

SUMMARY:

  • Information on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone–not necessarily an expert.
  • Use Wikipedia as a starting point for your research.
  • Check Wikipedia’s references at the bottom of the page. Those sources are more likely to be credible than Wikipedia itself.

LINKS:

Like Google’s search engine, Wikipedia is a mixed bag. It provides a great deal of relevant information in a very fast manner, but that information is not necessarily credible. Content on Wikipedia can be edited by anyone–not necessarily an expert or credible author.

The editors at Wikipedia have come a long way in policing the site for bad posts and flagging items without citations; but you should always be suspect of information on the site because of its public nature.

Therefore, Wikipedia is best used at the start of your research to help you get a sense of the breadth and depth of your topic. It should never be cited in an academic paper.

Another reason why Wikipedia should not be cited in an academic research paper is that it aims to be like an encyclopedia–a source of reference information, not scholarly research or primary or secondary sources. One must delineate between general reference for general knowledge and scholarly sources for in-depth knowledge and research. Facts from reputable encyclopedias or similar sources can be used to supplement a paper, but keep in mind that these sources won’t contain any juicy analysis or scholarly study.

Perhaps the most useful part of a Wikipedia page is the “References” section at the bottom, which contains links to relevant sites that are often more credible than the Wikipedia page itself. Use a discerning eye when viewing these citations and apply the best practices of evaluating credible information (see “Evaluating sources for credibility”).

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