Maximizing quality of research results

Quality means reliable, trustworthy, authoritative sources (part of an information literacy skill set).

Here are tips and tools for the savvy scholar to use to maximize the quality of research:

1. Often the researcher perceives an “information overload”—too much information. This oversupply of information consists of too much seemingly useable information, or too much information that is “noise”—lots of search results, but little relevance. The task often becomes separating the “wheat” from the “chaff”–sorting out the best information.

2. Keep in mind the quality pyramid: as quality increases, the quantity decreases; the highest quality sources will be harder to find at the narrow top of the pyramid; the least reliable information will be more plentiful at the wider base of the pyramid.

3. Starting at the base is all right to familiarize yourself with your issues and topics (newspapers, popular magazines, popular sites), but use the highest-level sources (scholarly) near the top of the pyramid for your final sources of information and cited sources.

4. Use library subscription databases to find peer-reviewed scholarly articles.

5. Use site:.gov and site:.edu searches first in Google and Yahoo! for government and university sources before you use the rest of the free Web.

6. Use search engines that search the “deep Web” (aka “invisible Web”), which has quality information missed by ordinary search engines like Google and Yahoo! Deep Web search engines to use: CompletePlanet.com, IncyWincy.com, and Clusty.com.

7. Use Web subject directories and collections with human-selected compilations of sites organized by topic or searchable by topic: infomine.ucr.edu, bubl.ac.uk, IncyWincy.com, ipl.org, CompletePlanet.com, directory.google.com, dir.yahoo.com

8. Investigating, questioning the information: “trust, but verify.” Don’t blindly or on faith accept even the most authoritative information as the final word. Do other experts or studies agree or disagree, to what extent, and why or why not? How easy is it to corroborate your information or argue its merits? Remember, even the most reliable sources have errors and disputed information (delicious.com/acclibrary/info.credibility).

9. Ultimate truth is elusive, but sound research and reasoning is attainable by employing information literacy and critical thinking. (Critical thinking links: critical-thinking.iste.wikispaces.net/Diigo+Resources)

10. What are the credentials, reputation, and objectivity of the organization or author providing the information? How recent is the information? Analyzing the “source” can be as important as investigating the information itself. Know the criteria to use in evaluating websites: delicious.com/acclibrary/Website.evaluation

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Filed under information credibility, information literacy

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