Sources Worksheet Directions: Fill in the blanks as we discuss the different types of sources and how to determine whether or not they are valid. By now you should have begun thinking about your topic and the kinds of things you might like to include in your paper. Now you need to figure out how to find the information. Not all information that is presented as factual is accurate. How can you determine whether or not the information you have gathered is correct? There are two basic kinds of sources. Information that comes from an original text, document, interview, speech or letter is a primary source. Other examples of primary sources include works of fiction (stories, poems, novels, etc.) and statistical tables and graphs. Anything that is not original is considered a secondary source. Secondary sources include biographies or comments made by a critic on a book or report. Make sure you include at lease one primary source in your paper. This lets the reader know that you understand what you are writing about. So how can you evaluate a source for its validity? First check the date. Depending on your topic, an article written in 1978 may not be as accurate as an article written in 2008. Schools change their curriculum from year to year, but information about the school’s history may still be valid. Next, check the author. Is he or she an authority on the occupation you are researching? Do they still work in the field? Is their science or statistics to back up what the author is saying? Does he use specific examples? These can be used with both print and electronic resources. But how do determine the different types of websites and which will be the most reliable? First, look at what comes after the dot. There are various different kinds of websites and some are better than others. A website that ends in .edu means that a school runs the website. These are traditionally the most reliable sites. That doesn’t mean that something may not be wrong, but it is more uncommon. Sites that end in .com or .net generally belong to businesses. These are least reliable site, since the company has an interest in what the site says and can control the content. Sites that end in .org are run by an organization. The information on these sites are often valid, but be careful. Some organizations are political and they are trying to make you think the way they do. Finally, sites that end in .gov are run by the government. Most of the time they are reliable, but they may not be updated as quickly as they should, so make sure you verify the information. Great, I just told you that .gov sites are usually reliable but now you have to verify the information. How do you do that? The simplest way is to check other websites. If three or more websites say the same thing, chances are the information is accurate. What should you do if you are still not sure the information is correct? Don’t use it! When in doubt, throw it out.
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