Sometimes it is obvious that a source is not good. SOmetimes it is not.
Checking academic articles
- Is it being used?
- Check if anyone has cited it (Google Scholar).
- If no-one has and it isn't ¥new, ask why.
- Is it recent? Only cite older articles if they are:
- "Classics" - things everyone cites.
- in topics that do not change much (philosophy)
- in a unpopular field
- You will learn the big journals in your area, but for now:
- Google "most influential journals in FIELD"
- Check "Impact" of what you find:
- how often it is cited, and by who
High quality sources to look for
Academic articles can also be low quality.
Carefully peer-reviewed articles/books are usually found on:
- Large university publishers¥:
- Cambridge University press: (link)
- University of Chicago: (link)
- Large academic organisation websites
- Large open-source publishing projects:
- Carefully managed indexes and databases:
- Large academic publishing companies:
Low quality sources to avoid
- "Self publishing" companies/Journals that print anything if they are paid: (link)
- Individual websites, blogs, online encyclopaedias, etc.
- Single topic journals published by single-topic people/groups: creation dot com, inconvenient history dot com (links spelled out because I don't want to link to them)
- Also check the universities where the writers work (all other things being equal, research funded or reviewed by committees at Tokyo or Cambridge University etc is better than that done in the Online University of Accredited Last Year).
The above are only suggestions.
- Some small journals are good. Some big ones are bad.
- Some researchers have high quality blogs.
- It will take a while, but learn the names of quality sources for your area.
Bias and Quality practice task
What is Bias?
- e.g. research funded by a company making money from the thing researched
- e.g. research done by a researcher making money from the thing researched.
- e.g. a journal that only publishes papers which say climate change doesn't exist
Here are five sources (journal, newspaper)
- All are from a Wiki article on Fair Trade: (link)
- Score them for bias and quality
|Unbiased = 5 ||High Quality = A|
|Maybe a bit biased = 3 ||Medium Quality = B|
|Totally Biased = 1 ||Low Quality = C|
Griffiths, P. (2010). Lack of rigour in defending Fairtrade: a reply to Alastair Smith. Economic Affairs, 30(2), 45-49. Retrieved from http://www.griffithsspeaker.com/Fairtrade/why_fair_trade_isn.htm
Smith, A. (2008). Fair Trade, Diversification and Structural Change: Towards a broader theoretical framework of analysis. Oxford Development Studies 37(4), 457–478. Retrieved from http://orca.cf.ac.uk/6918/
Carimentrand, A., & Ballet, J. (2010). When Fair Trade increases unfairness: The case of quinoa from Bolivia. Retrieved from http://ethique.perso.sfr.fr/Working%20paper%20FREE-Cahier%20FREE%20n%B05-2010.pdf
Booth, P. (2009, February 20). Don't bully the faithful into buying Fairtrade. The Catholic Herald. Retrieved from http://archive.catholicherald.co.uk/article/20th-february-2009/12/dont-bully-the-faithful-into-buying-fairtrade
Hamel, I. (2006, August 3). Fairtrade Firm Accused of Foul Play. Swiss Info. Retrieved from http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/Fair_trade_firm_accused_of_foul_play.html?cid=5351232 23/12/2009
Satire and April Fools: getting "onioned"
When you do not read critically enough, sometimes you even believe things that are written to be funny.
- For example, some people shared this article with their friends thinking it was real: (link)
- Even real newspaper sometimes unthinkingly reprint articles that were meant as jokes:
Of these articles, some are jokes and some are real. Can you tell the difference? How?
SolutionL: Checking the source
Some sources are usually reliable. Some are usually not.
- Is it a joke site?
- Is it a type of source known for being unrelieable (e.g. a tabloid newspaper)
- Is it likely to be very biased?
However, even reliable sources sometimes print things that are not true (either deliberately on April Fools, or by accident), so...
Check AT LEAST TWO other DIFFERENT sources, to see if it is also reported there.
- If it is about a country, read the papers from other countries
- If it is political, read papers biased to more than one side
- If it is a new science article, check for replication or similar research. Many new findings are not reliable until the experiment has been repeated a few times. Wait, or report carefully