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Statistics is a great way to open a topic or as sources throughout a term paper, research paper, or essay, but some statistics are not reliable. The World Wide Web offers a mountain of information on almost any topic. Ask a question on the Internet and the answer can be easily found. Need quotations for an essay, they can be found by using Google or other search engines. Information about anything can usually be found on the World Wide Web. Some of the information found will be facts, statistics, opinions, and stories, but not all of this information is reliable or valid. The problem for this wealth of information is making sure the research material is valid and reliable.
Before getting information on the Internet it is important to decide what types of information that you need. Do you need statistics? Do you want facts? Do you want a famous quotation as a hook? Do you need a take-away value for the conclusion? Knowing what you need helps in gathering research material.
The first question to ask about the information is what is the intent of the author? Why has the author put this information on the Internet? Is it to benefit him/her or a company? Where does the information come from? Does it come from scholarly journals, government websites, etc.? Is the author identifiable and reliable? Why should the author write this material? What experience does he/she have? What type of information do you need? Before using any material on the Internet check it for validity and reliability.
Determine the quality of information of the source. When trying to make a persuasive argument, the facts used must be reliable and valid. Sometimes using a quote will not persuade the audience if the information is not reliable. Statistics need to come from reliable sources with authors who know the material they are writing on. They need to be able to say why they their writing will be credible. What are the author's education, training, and experience in the field? What organization are they from? PhD's are more reliable than a news reporter. A statement from the president will have more reliability than a store clerk. Reliability comes from sources that have experienced authors.
Another way to know what the research is valid is the type of source it comes from. A scholarly journal is more reliable than a magazine. A government document is more reliable than an unknown author or research writer. It is important that the sources used are valid. Information from web sites should have information about the author.
Has the information been updated? What are the dates of the information? The current information is more reliable and more accepted than out-dated material. However, some work is timeless and continues to be valid. Shakespeare, Plato, Aristotle, Emily Dickinson, and others are authors that continue to be valid today.
Some indication that Internet source may not be valid is if there is no date, no authors, and seems to be one-sided. Some information on the Internet has been written by someone who believes what they are writing but has no real authority to write the material. The information should be reasonable and balanced with citations from previous sources used. The information should be objective and other both sides of an issue with reasons why the author is taking the viewpoint.
Another step in evaluating research material for a research paper is asking who has the copyright and citing all the information about the source. Different instructors want different types of citations. What does your specific instructor want as far as citation? MLA, APA, and other citations are used by different instructors.
It is important to check the information on the Internet to see if it is valid and reliable. Read about the author of the material. Check on dates of the material. Determine whether the information has been written by an expert. Evaluating Internet research sources is important in using these sources for custom essays or term papers.
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