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Library & Research FAQs: Evaluating, Using, & Citing Sources

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How do I cite my sources in ____ Style?

How do I cite my sources in ____ Style?

Check out our Research Guide on citing sources for examples in each citation style used on campus, as well as links to other online resources:

Using databases to locate scholarly articles? Check out our Database Tutorials for directions on how to use citation generators in specific databases to generate citations in the most popular styles (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.) for any source that you find. You can then save, download, email, or copy-paste, these directly into your papers. Some databases also offer the option to export the citation to a citation manager, such as Endnote or Zotoro.

Working with lots of citations? Try using EndNote, an app that helps you keep track of all your sources, organize them, and format your bibliography in any style.

Not sure how to cite a weird source, or want someone to check your citation? Librarians at the Reference Desk are happy to help you with figuring out citation formats.

How can I tell if this source is credible?

How can I tell if this source is credible?

Evaluating a source for credibility isn't always a quick checklist. It takes critical thinking on your part, and may require some additional investigation beyond the source itself. Here are some things to think about:

  • Who wrote/created it?
    • What are the author's credentials?
    • Some webpages may not have individual authors, but see if you can find who is behind the overall website.
    • Leave the site itself and see what others have to say about who is behind the website.
  • What is it saying, and how is it saying it?
    • What is the evidence? Are the sources it's using credible? Is it accurately representing them?
    • How is the main point or argument supported?
    • Is there strong or biased language?
  • When was it published?
    • Is it current enough to be accurate and relevant to your research?
    • What counts as current varies by topic/discipline.
  • Where was it published, and who published it?
    • What does the overall website, journal, or publisher specialize in?
    • Who is the audience of this overall source?
    • Leave the site itself and see what others have to say about who is behind the website.
  • Why was it written/created?
    • Is the author striving for an unbiased reporting of information, or advocating for a certain position?
    • Everything has a level of bias, because all sources ultimately are created by individual humans. Bias isn't inherently bad--it's just important to consider and account for when interpreting a source.
  • How was it published?
    • What kind of editorial process did it go through? Did the author simply post it online, or did someone else have to look at it first?
    • Peer-reviewed sources go through more levels of review before they are published.

Want a second opinion? Feel free to ask a librarian at the Reference Desk.

Looking for help specifically with news vs. fake news?  See our separate Research Guide:

How can I tell if this source is scholarly / academic?

How can I tell if this source is scholarly / academic?

Looking at several aspects of the source can help you determine if it's scholarly/academic.

Author

What are the author's credentials? Do they have an advanced degree? Are they a researcher/professor in the subject matter the source is about? 

If the author is a journalist or writer, they are probably writing for a more general audience rather than for scholars.

Publisher

What does the publisher specialize in? Look for information about the publisher, if you're not familiar with it, and see if it specializes in publishing scholarly content.

References

How are the sources cited? All scholarly sources have full citations for all their sources. They might be in the form of footnotes at the bottoms of pages or a bibliography at the end. The cited sources are often other scholarly content.

Content

How specialized is the topic?​ Is there jargon and subject-specific terminology?​ Are there figures like maps, charts, or graphs?

Want a second opinion? Feel free to ask a librarian at the Reference Desk.

How can I tell if this source is empirical?

How can I tell if this source is empirical?

Empirical research uses observation and collection of data about real phenomena to answer specific research questions. It is a type of research used in the sciences, social sciences, and education.

Empirical articles can also be called primary or original research articles. They often have a predictable structure, with sections including:

  • Introduction: This describes the context of the study among previous research done in this area.
  • Methods: This describes how the study was done.
  • Results: This conveys the findings of the study.
  • Discussion: This discusses how the findings impact scientific knowledge on the topic and how the results might be put into practice (depending on the field).

For more help distinguishing or finding empirical articles, ask a librarian or see our separate Research Guide:

How can I tell if this source is primary or secondary?

How can I tell if this source is primary or secondary?

What counts as a primary or secondary source differs among different disciplines. 

Area of Research Definition/Examples of Primary Sources Definition/Examples of Secondary Sources
Cultural or historical studies

Original records* that were either created at the time historical events occurred, or well after those events in the form of memoirs and oral histories.

*Records could be news articles, images, government reports, speeches, social media, interviews, etc.

Comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the primary or original source. Such as:

  • Analysis of social, cultural or economic trends
  • Review of the literature on a topic

Literary studies Original literary works, as well as letters, diaries, notes, and marginalia written by authors.

Comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the primary or original source. Such as:

  • Critical reaction to a piece of literature
Scientific research

Articles reporting on the results of original research, as well as the data* gathered by scientists.

*Data could be measurements, images, audio, interviews, etc.

Comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the primary or original source. Such as:

  • Critical reaction to an experiment
  • Review of the literature on a topic

For more help distinguishing between primary and secondary sources, or for help finding primary sources, ask a librarian or see our separate guide: 

How do I do a literature review?

How do I do a literature review?

Depending on your assignment, the literature review might a section at the beginning of a paper providing background for your research, or it might be an entire paper assessing the state of research on a particular topic.

It's aim is to be comprehensive. While you may not end up using all the sources you find, you want to be thorough in your searching so you don't miss anything important.

See our Research Guide on literature reviews for help:

Librarians at the Reference Desk, or the librarian for your subject, can help you develop a literature searching strategy so you can find everything you need.

Where can I get help with writing my paper?

Where can I get help with writing my paper?

Librarians are happy to help you brainstorm topics and format your bibliography, but when it comes to writing your paper, we recommend you head over to the Academic Resource Center (ARC) in the Student Center. Writing assistants there can provide feedback, and help you with strategies for composing and revising your paper.

Writing assistants are available at the ARC seven days a week morning and evening hours. Drop-in service is available, but appointments are recommended. To schedule an appointment with a Writing Assistant, stop by the Front Desk in the ARC to reserve a time, call the ARC at (603) 641-7017, or email peertutorandwritingcenter@anselm.edu.

See the ARC's webpage for more information.

How can I avoid accidentally plagiarizing when I write my paper?

How can I avoid accidentally plagiarizing when I write my paper?

Even if you don't mean to plagiarize, you can do so accidentally. Here's what to keep in mind:

  • Know when to cite. Some things, like your own ideas or common knowledge, don't need to be cited. But most other things do.
  • Organize your research. Keep track of the sources you take notes from, and make it clear if you're writing something down word-for-word.
  • Use and cite sources correctly. Make sure to give credit to your sources, represent their ideas accurately, and cite them correctly.
    • Summarizing: In your own words, this expresses the main points of a source or part of a source, which must be cited.
    • Paraphrasing: More than simply changing a few words, this restates or recasts an idea from a source in your own voice, your language, and in a context that assists the purpose of your paper. You must properly cite the source.
    • Quoting: When the specific wording from a source is important to include in your paper, you may select a very brief passage, sentence, phrase or term and include it in quotations marks. You must properly cite the source.
    • Citing: Follow the citation style (such as MLA, APA, Chicago, CSE) required by your professor to properly cite your sources in-text and in your full bibliography.

Condensed from our Academic Integrity & Plagiarism Tutorial:

For help with citing sources, see our separate Research Guide: