Here are some tips to finding reliable information on Oregon environmental topics. Local- and state-level information can be difficult to find.
- Finding Oregon Environmental Information (BI101)
- 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?
- What appears to be the purpose for publishing this information?
- Does what you know about the organization suggest a bias?
- Accuracy and Currency
- 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?
Below are two Web sites to examine. Please look over the sites with the above criteria in mind. Then return to this page by using the "Back" button on your browser.
|Medical Genetics Services||Genochoice|
Do you think the information presented is reliable? Would you use any of it for an assignment? Would you use the services offered by one or both of these sites?
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.
|Scholarly 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.|
|Government reports and statistics||In 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.|
|Conference proceedings||The 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.|
|Technical reports||Technical 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.|
|Books||Books 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.|
|Magazines||Articles 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.|
|Newspapers||Newspapers 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.|
|Commercial Web site||Commercial 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.|
|Advocacy organization Web site or brochure||Advocacy 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.|
|Personal Web site||In general, personal Web sites should not be used as sources for statements of fact.|
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.
For information of a technical nature, there is a large amount of information available on the Internet. Here are some good sources to try.
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 Google's Government Search. This search engine is the familiar Google, but searches only in government documents, including military sites like the Army Corps of Engineers.
There are a number of technical report servers you can try. Here are some:
|National Technical Information Service||NTIS 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 Environmental Publications Internet Site||NEPIS is an EPA site for technical documents. It is somewhat difficult to use; the librarians can assist you.|
|Department of Energy Information Bridge||Deparment of Energy site for searching technical reports|
|OSTI E-print Network||Department of Energy site 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."|
A specialized search engine for science is called Scirus. You can set Scirus to look only at web sites or to include descriptions of journal articles.
Another way to find scientific information is to use advanced search capabilities of a general-purpose Internet search engine such as Google. Put ".edu" in the Domain space to find documents only on college and university web sites. Another helpful technique is to use the names of researchers whose work you have already found as search terms along with a key word or phrase. This works in part because scientific papers cite their references in a list at the end. When you search for your researcher's name, you may find it listed in the references of another paper on a related topic.
For example, let's say you found a good article on salmon by a researcher named Zabel. You search on the words "Zabel" and "salmon." in ".edu" and find some good sources.
To comment or request help, please e-mail Reference or call 503.399.5231.
Address of this page: http://library.chemeketa.edu/instruction/handouts/BI101.php
Updated: 23 Nov. 2011