Welcome to Research Skills for Engineering Students Module 2, Part 1: Types of engineering information. In this section, you’ll learn how to evaluate and identify different types of sources. No matter where you get your information, you need to make sure you critically evaluate each source to ensure it’s appropriate for your research! Many publications have a particular bias or agenda, which may not be obvious at first glance. Here are a few criteria that could help you in your evaluation: Authority: What are the author's credentials and affiliation? Who publishes the information? Accuracy: Based on what you already know about the topic or from reading other sources, does the information seem credible? Does the author cite other sources in a reference list or bibliography to support the information presented? Scope: Is the source at an appropriate comprehension or research level? There are other criteria to consider as well, such as currency, objectivity, and purpose.
For more information, see UBC Library’s Evaluating Information Sources. Sources such as magazines, news stories, and blogs are known as popular sources. These aim to inform the general public, and are more informal in tone and scope. Popular sources can be useful when looking for background or current information on a topic, although they aren’t generally considered scholarly. There are many different types of popular sources, but in general, these sources: are not written by subject experts, are written for the general public, have no or limited citations and references to their source information, and include advertisements and graphics. Some examples of popular engineering sources include: IEEE spectrum, a trade magazine The Globe and Mail, a newspaper and Gizmodo, a blog.
On the other hand, scholarly sources are written by experts in a particular field, with the expectation the audience has a certain level of pre-understanding. They can include journal articles, conference proceedings, theses/dissertations, and others. In general, scholarly sources: are written by subject experts, are written for experts (researchers, post-secondary students, and so on), have extensive citations and references to their source information, and include figures, tables, charts, or graphs that generally focus on results. To see the typical components of a scholarly journal article, check out Anatomy of a Scholarly Article from North Carolina State University Libraries.
That concludes Module 2 Part 1. In Part 2, you’ll learn more about different types of engineering information, as well as peer review.
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