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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

How to Use the IFSI Library: Information Literacy for Firefighters: Evaluating Sources

This Libguide is for the Firefighters that use the Illinois Fire Service Institute Library Catalog and materials who may need guidance on how to locate and manage resources for classes and research.

Source Types

The Steps of Research

Starting a research project can be overwhelming. It can be tempting to grab all the sources that look good and cite them. However, going through the process of engaging, reflecting, and evaluating your sources will provide you with a more solid foundation for your work.

Research Steps:

Identify

What is the information that you need? A certain type or amount of sources? To develop a thesis statement? If you are unclear about what you need, talking with a librarian can help narrow your focus and understanding of your work.

Find

Locate the correct tool or item you need to conduct research. What database should you be using to find articles or what book should you reference? Collect what you think are the best sources. Again, IFSI librarians can provide you with guidance. Our other Libguides are also a good starting point.

Evaluate

Critically assess sources to create trustworthy and quality research. Consider the variety of source types you collect, the author's arguments and opinions, and what the author uses as their own source base.

Apply

Organize the information you gather into your assignment or research deliverable. This can be a PowerPoint, essay, or a collection of resources for your own personal use.

Evaluate (Again)

What is your own research saying? Are there gaps in perspectives or narratives that should be included in your research? Evaluate your own work and how it is contributing to the field. Are you addressing the original question that you identified in the beginning? This is a good time to revise and get feedback.

Acknowledge

Maintain accurate citations of all the sources you collect. In addition to observing copyright laws, citing your sources and giving credit to other authors lends authority to your research and provides your readers with important information.

 

Youtube Video

Questions to consider about Online Sources

  • Who are the authors? What are their credentials?
    • Publication itself, whether online or in print, does not automatically lend authority to the information.
  • Who is the intended audience of the piece?
  • When was this information produced? Is it outdated?
    • Depending on the topic, sources published within the latest three to five years are often considered relevant. However, sources in rapidly developing fields, such as technology or medicine, may become outdated more quickly.
  • Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda? Consider the nature of the evidence provided.
    • Everyone has biases, preconceived notions, and motivations. Search to find who has funded the website and consider advertisements on the page to learn more.
  • Can the content be verified by other sources?