Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Describe how information from different sources may vary in quality, and how to differentiate good quality information from poor quality.
Comment about sourcing quality material for research purposes.

‘Knowledge, generated by researchers and theorists, builds a coherent and distinct “body of knowledge” through scholarly publications and presentations’ (Schneider, Z., Whitehead, D., Elliott, D., Lobiondo-Wood, G.,& Haber, J., (2007).

There are many sources of information available from which to collect material for research purposes. Within that is a vast range of quality. It is therefore vital to correctly identify relevant quality information from which to base a research project.

The researcher needs to systematically evaluate the source of the information followed by the quality of the content.

1) Sources
These can include:
· Publications
· Reference books,
· Textbooks,
· Journals,
· Conference papers,
· Research papers & articles
· Web sites.

The researcher then needs to establish whether or not the publication source is either:
· academic (reference/text),
· scholarly (e.g.: journals, and whether it is peer reviewed or not)),
· popular or non scholarly (general audience- e.g.: newspaper article.)
For the purpose of research the former two sources are preferred when found in already evaluated material.

Web sites
There are large volumes of unevaluated information readily at hand on the web. Some of this is well researched and highly accurate while other is personal opinion or hearsay.

2) Factors to take into consideration.
Some important factors to take into consideration when evaluating material:

i) Whether or not the material is a primary (original works) or secondary (studies by other researchers) source.
According to Taylor, B., Kermode, S., & Roberts, K., (2006) primary sources are those written by the author and are new and are the authors own ideas, whereas secondary sources are those to which an author refers.
eg: Primary sources: statistical data, speeches, interviews, research reports, original documents.
Secondary sources: describe, analyse, and/or evaluate information found in primary sources. Data is repackaged, to make information more accessible in books, journals, encyclopedias, etc.

ii) Scholarly works are valuable sources for research purposes. eg: theoretical papers, reports , procedures, results, review papers and books written by authorities.

iii) Refereed journal articles are considered more scholarly than non-refereed.

iv) The production of research books takes up to five years from the time it is written up and appears in a journal and is then cited in a book, so the information contained may not be considered current in some areas due to the time lapse. However bibliographies of research books can be useful sources of references, as are conference papers.

v) Authoritative reports and theses, are now easier to access on the web.

vi) Journals are the most valuable resource for research. (Taylor et al. 2006).

Credibility criteria.
A number of important criteria are then applied to the source in order to ascertain the publications credibility and include:
· Authority or status of the source,
· Date of publication,
· Current- whether the information is current at time of publication,
· Reliable- presentation of material in an sequential, logical and comprehensive manner, well researched with supporting evidence,
· Relevance- to the topic,
· Scope or time period covered,
· Bias &objectivity (except for facts there will always be an element of bias),
· Appropriate context,
· Integrity- moral and ethical,
· Verification of author/s and their credentials & acknowledged experience,
· Verification and accuracy of factual material and claims,
· and that sources are acknowledged in a correctly recorded reference list.
With respect to web sites all of the above and :
· the most recent update
· the quality of the site must be established.( was it recommended by a lecturer or tutor)
ie: are the links on the site reliable , and do they work, and
· Who is hosting the site. eg: personal, Government department, an institution, organization, or a commercial enterprise ( drug company or some one who has a commercial interest in the promotion of the material contained).

3) Quality of content
The quality, or ‘degree of excellence” (Swannell 1986), of content is ascertained by the credibility of the source criteria as mentioned above.

An example “In determining level of objectivity". Retrieved March 21st from http://www.virtualchase.com/quality/checklist.html
Material from the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.govt) reflects a balanced unbiased source, compared to something from the Institute of Historical Review ( http://ihr.org/), a hate site which is totally biased, and an article “Not another Scare” (http://www.aspartamekills.com/blayart1.htm) is biased in addition to containing no documented references or claims.

Evaluating and differentiation of information for quality is something that develops over time by trial and error, with practice and experience.
It would be fair to say that the more credible the number of source criteria that are met the more reputable the quality of the information.

Bill Robertson Library
Text Books

Reference List

Schneider, Z., Whitehead, D., Elliott, D., Lobiondo-Wood, G., Haber, J., (2007). Nursing & midwifery research (3rd ed.). Sydney: Mosby Elsevier.

Swannell. J.,(ed)., Little Oxford Dictionary, 6th ed. (1986). Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Taylor, B., Kermode, S., & Roberts, K., (2006). Research in nursing and healthcare: evidence for practice (3rd ed.). Australia: Thomson.

Web Resources:
The Virtual Chase, retrieved March 21st from http://www.virtualchase.com/quality/index.html

Wikipedia, retrieved March 21st from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_quality

Suite101.com, retrieved March 21st from http://internet.suite101.com/article.cfm/finding_good_quality_information

University of Alaska Fairbanks, retrieved March 21st from http://library.uaf.edu/1s101-research-process.

Walt Howe, retrieved March 21st from http://www.walthowe.com/navnet/quality.html#evaluated.

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