Why It Matters: The Research Process—Finding and Evaluating Sources

Why learn to find and evaluate sources?

Caution symbol.Have you heard about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide? Did you know that it is commonly found in many household products, is readily available, but can also cause severe burns, erosion, corrosion, and is the major component in acid rain? Jennifer Abel from Consumer Affairs tells us, “search online for information about dihydrogen monoxide, and you’ll find a long list of scary and absolutely true warnings about it: used by the nuclear power industry, vital to the production of everything from pesticides to Styrofoam, present in tumors removed from cancer patients, and guaranteed fatal to humans in large quantities.”

Read more about the dangers at this DHMO website.

Are you starting to feel like something is not quite right about this information? What exactly is DHMO? How can it be found so easily, yet pose so many risks? If you haven’t tried it already, do a quick Google search for dihydrogen monoxide. Aside from the dhmo.org website, what other search results do you see?

Meme showing President Obama with the text: "President Obama banned the use of dihydrogen monoxide to torture detainees, yet still allows it to be given to our children at school."

Figure 1. A funny meme depicting how easy it is to misrepresent information and give people the wrong impression. While Obama did prohibit waterboarding as a torture technique, banning water in schools would have obvious disastrous consequences.

Source Reliability

You probably found the Wikipedia page titled “Dihydrogen Monoxide Hoax” or a Snopes.com article debunking the circulating myths. It turns out that dihydrogen monoxide is really just a fancy way of referencing water, or H2O, and is certainly something we don’t want to ban or protest against. This new context about the real meaning of DHMO certainly provides amusing insight into the “horrors” you read about on the DHMO website: Does it enhance athletic performance? Can it improve your marriage? What are its overdose symptoms?

The steps of using sources in research: find, analyze, integrate, document.Nowadays, we are surrounded with so much readily available information at our fingertips, that it is sometimes hard to differentiate fact from fiction. Of course, not everything you read on the internet is true, but how do you know what’s a good source to rely on for personal information in your life? How about for an academic essay?

In this section, you’ll learn about tools you can use and steps you can follow in order to find credible information. You’ll learn how to find information, evaluate it, integrate it, and document it correctly for your research paper.

These skills will help you excel in your academic writing, but also pave the way for a more critical eye when hearing or reading about any newfound information.

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