Depending on what type of research you are doing you will need to identify what resources are key pieces of evidence for your work.
Academic sources are considered to be the top tier of evidence for research. This is information that has been produced by experts in the field. Commonly commercially published through an academic publishing body, these sources undergo a scholarly review process by other experts or "peers" in the subject known as peer-review.
"Academic sources" or "scholarly sources" commonly means:
Use academic sources when you need evidence of recent research that has been done and reviewed in your subject. They are great sources of credible information for research.
Academic books are good for theories and structured overviews of a subject or topic. Use these to give some background information to your work.
Academic journal articles and research papers are good for exploring current research and the specific developments of a narrow topic.
Access to academic sources are usually controlled by the publisher, either via a single academic journal or an academic publisher who publish a range of journals and books. As a lot of academic resources will require payment to access you can use services that purchase access such as libraries or workplace subscriptions using your student membership.
To access these resources you can use:
See our Search Engines and Library Databases guide to learn more about how search engines and databases work and to find out which search engine or database is right for you.
For some information they will only be published directly to an online webpage.
Online sources can include:
Information about a company may only be produced on their about webpage, recent incidents may not have had enough time to receive a formal report, and public opinion may not be officially published but rather be presented online through blog posts or forum discussions. Use websites to find this information where needed.
When using online sources these are not (most of the time) reviewed by other experts. As these can be produced and published by a single person or organisation they will require additional checking for quality. See our Evaluating Information section to find out how to judge the reliability of online sources.
A lot of factual information on websites will also be secondary or tertiary sources. Ideally when doing research you want to use primary or academically published research when providing evidence to your statements.
When using websites you can at times identify the purpose of the site by its domain. Some domains are restricted to a certain type of service.
.com - are for commercial websites (anyone can register for this domain)
.edu - are for educational institutions (e.g. ecu.edu.au)
.gov - are for government organisations (e.g. wa.gov.au)
For country based websites these may use their respective country code as the next level domain in the web address. If you want to find something from Australia look for .au in the domain name for Australian based websites.
When looking for government or education information you can do a site search for these domains to restrict your results to just educational (.edu) or Australian (.au) websites.
Be aware that not all government or educational institutions may have registered for a .gov or .edu domain so remember to search broadly as well.
See the Google Scholar section for how to restrict these using Google.
As these works are published by the company or organisation that produced it the review process for these works are usually done by the organisation itself at varying degrees (from none to extensive review and editing).
If you are working on something that needs to look at a particular company or group and their business grey literature might be the best source to find this information.
Information on their day to day functions such as meteorological measurements, wildlife tracking, financial records, or incident tracking are not academically published but rather published in reports that can be found through the websites of whoever is tracking and reporting on it.
Wikipedia is a useful tool for surface level information. However when it comes to the search for reliable and credible information it falls short. Here are the key things that you need to know when considering Wikipedia and the information that is found on it.
Wikipedia is an online free encyclopedia. The key aim of Wikipedia is to create a collaborative collection of knowledge in which anyone in the world can contribute to and expand (Wikipedia, 2020d). The information presented in the articles of Wikipedia are recommended to be written from a neutral point-of-view with no original research (Wikipedia, 2020b). Edits in Wikipedia are generally requested to have a verifiable sources cited for each one of the points presented (Wikipedia, 2020b, 2020c).
A reliable source is one where you can verify where and who the information is coming from. We use the CRAAP test to test for reliable sources. Here is Wikipedia if we apply the CRAAP test:
The use of encyclopedias to provide context, definitions, and related topics is not one that is academically discouraged. The purpose of encyclopedias and other reference works such as dictionaries, handbooks, or manuals are useful tools to create understanding of a word, phrase, subject, or concept.
This is where Wikipedia comes in.
Use Wikipedia for:
Never use Wikipedia as a reference (unless you're talking about the website Wikipedia)!
Wikipedia. (2020a, July 29). Wikipedia:No original research. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:No_original_research&oldid=970207668
Wikipedia. (2020b, August 3). Help:Editing. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Help:Editing&oldid=971048657
Wikipedia. (2020c, September 20). Wikipedia:Core content policies. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Core_content_policies&oldid=979332916
Wikipedia. (2020d, September 21). Wikipedia:About. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:About&oldid=979580857
Wikipedia. (2020e, September 22). Wikipedia:Protection policy. https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Wikipedia:Protection_policy&oldid=979794234