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PSCI 210 - Introduction to American Government

Library Miscellanea

Accessing Databases from Off-Campus

To access the Libraries' databases and e-journals from off-campus, you can use your NetId username and password.  Alternatively, you can use your student ID number and library password.  More information about Library Passwords can be found here.

EndNote Web

This bibliographic management and formatting software can help you manage citations and references throughout the process of writing a research paper.

  • Organize references to cite
  • Format bibliographies in APA, MLA, Chicago, and hundreds of other styles
  • Store references from Web of Science and other databases.

For more assistance with Endnote Web, consider attending a Wednesday Workshop session on the topic.  Workshop topics and dates and times can be found at http://www.lib.montana.edu/services/research-and-instruction//workshops.html

Evaluating Websites

When evaluating websites or any resources for that matter, there are 5 criteria to consider.  They are (1) Currency (2) Authority (3) Objectivity (4) Content and (5) Audience

Currency—Is the information on the website current?

Why should you care?

  • Unless you are doing historical research, you always want the most current information.  Older information may have been superseded by new research. Provide your reader with current and accurate information.

 How can you tell if a website is current?

  • Locate a date on the website— This date can either indicate when the information was initially published or last updated.  Ideally you want to verify when the site was last updated. You can also do this by looking at the dates when an announcement or document was posted.  
  • Check the links—Are the links current and pointing to existing pages?  If links lead you to an error message, there is a good chance that the owner is not updating the site very frequently.

Authority— Does this person/group know what they are talking about?

Why should you care?

  • Anyone can create a website. It is important to determine whether the author of the website is credible and is knowledgeable in the field.  Provide your reader with accurate information.

How can you locate the authority (author) of a website?

  • Look for an “About us” or “Who we are” link or some information that explains their mission and why the website is in existence.
  • Is there contact information? 
  • Is it a .org, .edu, .com, .gov, or .net site? 
    NOTE: gov and .edu  are government and university sites.  They are usually authoritative. Carefully evaluate the others. A .com or .net site is usually a commercial or personal website.  .org sites are a mixed bag.  They are usually pretty credible but there are some sketchy organizations out there. The organization may also exist to support a specific cause so a bias in content may be present.

Objectivity - Does the website have a bias?  Is it all opinion or are there facts?

Why should you care?

  • If the website is biased, you may be missing an entire side of an issue and not obtaining all of the information needed to present an accurate and clear picture.  You also don’t want the website to be all opinion.  Who’s to say they are right?

How can you tell whether a website is objective?

  •   Read through the website and consider its content.  Does it appear to only represent one side of an issue?
  •    Look for an “About us” or “Who we are” link or some information that explains their mission and why the website is in existence.  Look for words like nonpartisan, nonpolitical etc.

Content - Is there any useful information on the website?

Why should you care?

  •   Your time is valuable.  You don’t want to waste time on a site that is either repeating information that you already have or provides information on a superficial (not in-depth) level.

How can you tell if a website has useful content?

  • Skim through the website.  Look for articles, reports, or studies.
  • Ask your librarian for assistance.

Audience?

Who is the intended readership of this information?

  • Look at the languaged used to see if it's simple, more academic, more jargon or slang laden
  • Opponents to the argument being made may be names

Sources: http://guides.lib.montana.edu/evaluatinginformation