Finding Oregon Environmental Information (BI101)

Here are some tips to finding reliable information on Oregon environmental topics. Local- and state-level information can be difficult to find.

Evaluating Sources of Information

Important Considerations for Evaluating Information Sources Include:

  1. Authorship picture of quill pen
    • Who wrote the document?
    • Is there information about the author's qualifications for writing about this topic? (Education, experience, position?)
    • What organization provides the information?
  2. Objectivity  picture of scales
    • What appears to be the purpose for publishing this information?
    • Does what you know about the organization suggest a bias?
  3. Accuracy and Currencypicture of check mark
    • When was this document created or last updated?
    • Are there errors in spelling and/or grammar?
    • Can you spot any errors of fact?
    • Does the document list the sources of its information?

Sources of Information to Impress (Or Appall) Your Instructor

Here is a ranking of some sources to use for facts, in order of generally accepted reliability. Remember that the type of source is only a general indicator of acceptability. The reputation of the author, the organization involved, and the publisher are all factors to consider. Also consider whether the author, etc., have any special reason to be biased in the presentation of the particular subject at hand.

picture of smiling facepicture of smiling facepicture of smiling facepicture of smiling faceScholarly journals="academic journals" or "peer-reviewed journals" These rank highest on the acceptability scale, because each article is written by experts and reviewed by a panel of experts from the same field before publication. Findings may still be controversial. Gale Academic OneFile has a check box on the lower part of the search screen that lets you limit your results to scholarly journals.
picture of smiling facepicture of smiling facepicture of smiling faceGovernment reports and statisticsIn print or on the Internet. Generally considered a reliable source. Data may be collected and processed by persons with considerable expertise and academic credentials. A small number of government reports may be written with a strong bias for political purposes, but most attempt to be factual.
picture of smiling facepicture of smiling facepicture of smiling faceConference proceedingsThe acceptability rating for conference proceedings will vary somewhat depending on the prestige of the organization that holds the conference, and the degree to which the papers given at the conference are reviewed or controlled. Scientific conferences where experts are presenting to other experts are generally a good choice.
picture of smiling facepicture of smiling facepicture of smiling faceTechnical reportsTechnical reports may issue from a wide variety of sources, including government. They may be prepared by academic entities or by private consulting firms, sometimes under government contract. Technical reports state clearly the nature of the research or study and the methods used to collect and process the data.
picture of smiling facepicture of smiling faceBooksBooks are variable in reliability. Books put out by recognized and respected publishers have undergone at least some review. Books written for a scholarly audience are held to higher standards than those written for the general public, and may approach scholarly journals in acceptability. Books cannot be as up-to-date as the most recent periodicals.
picture of smiling faceMagazinesArticles in popular magazines such as Newsweek or Outdoor Life are written by reporters or free-lance writers and are examined by editors. In the widely recognized magazines, an attempt is usually made to insure accuracy, but these publications are less carefully screened than scholarly journals. Some popular periodicals, such as Sierra, are published by organizations with a distinct point of view.
picture of frowning faceNewspapersNewspapers may be needed as a source for local issues, but be sure to check facts. While a few nationally-recognized newspapers (for example New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The Christian Science Monitor) have high standards and are equally acceptable with national news magazines, many local newspapers may contain inaccuracies and shoddy reporting.
picture of frowning facepicture of frowning faceCommercial Web siteCommercial Web sites are business, not scholarship. Companies want to present information that will promote their business, and may be further restrained from total truth-telling by other considerations, for example, the fear of lawsuits. Check any facts you find on commercial sites in more neutral sources.
picture of frowning facepicture of frowning faceAdvocacy organization Web site or brochureAdvocacy organizations, by their nature, are trying to promote an opinion. Some are more scrupulous about facts than others, but at the least you should expect that the information presented has been chosen with a conscious bias. It is best to seek independent confirmation of the statements asserted there.
picture of frowning facepicture of frowning facepicture of frowning facePersonal Web siteIn general, personal Web sites should not be used as sources for statements of fact.

Finding Information

Conventional Sources

Clearly, books and periodical articles are a good place to look for information. Books are found in the Chemeketa library catalog. You can also search in the catalogs of other libraries to find books to request by interlibrary loan. Articles are found in the periodicals databases. Besides the main (Gale, ScienceDirect) databases, some specialized databases exist on the Supplementary Database page.

Other Sources of Technical Information

For information of a technical nature, there is a large amount of information available on the Internet. Here are some good sources to try.

Government Documents

Oregon documents can be found at the Oregon.gov Web site. There is a search engine. It can be a bit difficult to find what you are looking for.

U.S. and state documents can be found on USA.gov. Science.gov covers scientific documents on federal government sites.

Technical Reports and Web Sites

There are a number of technical report servers you can try. Here are some:

National Technical Information ServiceNTIS is a government service. Most of the reports listed are for purchase, but you can look for them in libraries. Some reports are available free in electronic form.
National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP)NSCEP is an EPA site for technical documents. It is somewhat difficult to use; the librarians can assist you.
SciTech ConnectDeparment of Energy site for searching technical reports
E-print NetworkWite that includes "scientific or technical documents circulated electronically to facilitate peer exchange and scientific advancement. Included are pre-publication drafts of journal articles (preprints), scholarly papers, technical communications, or similar documents relaying research results among peer groups."

Another way to find scientific information is to use the search capabilities of Google Scholar. This Google tool finds scholarly journal articles, books, and technical reports.

To set Chemeketa Community College as one of your libraries in Google Scholar, click on the Settings button (Gear icon) and choose Library Links. A search for Chemeketa will give you a result to check off. Be sure to save your changes!


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Address of this page: http://library.chemeketa.edu/instruction/handouts/BI101.php

Updated: 24 September 2013