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POLI 301 - Research Methods in Political Science: What is data? where to start?

Criteria to evaluate resources

Is it Relevant?  Does it contribute to your knowledge on the subject you are researching?

Is it Current? - Is the information current for your project?

Is it Accurate? - Is the information provided correct?

Is it Authoritative? - Is the author an expert on the subject?

What does peer review mean?

Peer review is an indicator of quality scholarship. It is the process by which after an author submits its manuscript for publication, a number of recognized researchers in the field (their peers) will evaluate the manuscript and recommend its publication, revision, or rejection. Articles accepted for publication through a peer review process implicitly meet the discipline's expected standards of expertise.

What is a primary source?

Primary sources were created during the time period being studied or at a later date by a participant in the events being studied, as in the case of memoirs or autobiographies.  They reflect the individual experience or viewpoint of a participant or observer.  Primary sources enable the researcher to get as close as possible to what actually happened during an historical event or time period. They have not undergone any sort of evaluation or interpretation.

Examples of Primary sources include: Audio/Video recordings, Autobiographies, Correspondence, Diaries, Letters, Maps, Newspaper articles, Pamphlets, Photographs, Speeches, ...

Primary Sources on the Web: Finding, Evaluating, Using  - ALA

What is a secondary source?

Secondary sources are materials that have been created by someone such as a historian or a researcher. Secondary sources interpret and analyze data gathered from primary sources. They are one or more steps removed from the time of the event. Examples of secondary sources include:

  • Books
  • Newspaper or journal articles which interpret or reviews findings
  • The research paper you will write

Why use reference books?

Locating background information in general and subject specific encyclopedias and dictionaries will help you put information in context.

Consulting reference materials will help you:

  • Get an overview of the subject you are researching
  • Identify key concepts of your topic
  • Identify major authors
  • Understand the chronology/timeline of the event/s
  • Develop a list of search terms to start your research
  • Use the bibliographies in these resources to locate other information on your topic.