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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Improving Your Research Skills

This guide will help you improve your research skills through searching library databases, searching Google, and evaluating sources.

Why Evaluate Sources?

Not all resources will have the same level of accuracy and credibility. This is true both for sources you find on Google, and sources you find in library databases. It is important to analyze any source to see if it will be credible and useful for your argument.

 

For more information about evaluating sources, check out the UGL’s guide on Evaluating Your Sources.

 

ACT UP

Note: Material based on Salem State University Library’s guide on ACT UP; ACT UP was originally created by librarian Dawn Stahura.

 

ACT UP is a helpful way to remember what questions to ask yourself about sources you find. It works for resources on Google and library databases. Below you will find some questions to start with.

A: Author

  • Who wrote this source? Why did they write it?
  • Do they have a background, expertise, or experience with the topic?
  • Is this source someone’s lived experience?
  • Is the author affiliated with a certain university, company, or organization?

C: Currency

  • When was this source published?
  • If the source includes data, when was it collected? By whom?
  • Is this the most current information available on your topic?

T: Truth

  • Are the facts presented in this source real and accurate?
  • Does the author cite evidence from others to back up their argument?
  • Can you trace their citations (if they have them) to other reputable sources?

U: Unbiased

All sources have a bias or perspective on a topic. Some sources will present more bias than others.

  • Does this source use loaded language or “clickbait,” words or phrases meant to convince potential readers to click on the article?
  • What perspective does the source offer? Can you find other sources that offer different perspectives?
  • Did anyone give money for this research to be done or this source to be created? Do they have power over what gets included in the source?

P: Privilege

  • Who might be missing from the conversation around this source or topic?
  • Where would you find those missing voices?
  • Are there certain groups or people dominating the discussion?
  • Is the source behind a paywall (which means some people may have to pay to access it)?
  • If you are looking at a research study, were the participants from diverse backgrounds?