Open Educational Resources (OER):
Your paper is only as credible as your sources, so it is essential that you evaluate every source you use!
First: Consider whether the source is non-fiction or fiction.
Generally speaking, a non-fiction (factual/not creative) source is preferred in a research paper. Typically, a traditionally published non-fiction source such as a book, documentary, or article goes through a rigorous vetting process before it is published.
Typically, it is not advisable to use a fictional (created from imagination) source in a research paper, unless it is used to illustrate a point in your research, to explain a source of inspiration, or your paper is about that particular book, film, series, musical recording, etc.
It is possible, especially in literature, art history, film studies, or humanities-type classes, that the examination of one or more fictional resources (or elements within them) is the topic of a paper. In these situations, it is acceptable to use appropriate and relevant fiction as sources with proper citation. For example, the topic of a paper could be something like: Leadership characteristics of American presidents in books, television and film. In this paper, a selection of fictional presidents could be compared and contrasted, like Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy’s novel Executive Orders, the president portrayed in the television series The West Wing, and the presidents in the films Independence Day and The American President, as well as fictionalized portrayals of real presidents, such as in the book and movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Ideally, there would be non-fictional sources used as well, to support conclusions that behaviors exhibited by these fictional presidents display good leadership qualities, or not.
In the Nicolet College Library, call numbers beginning with P are fiction, except for literary criticism and author biographies. A call number beginning with anything other than P is non-fiction.
Second: Consider the topic.
Finding non-fiction materials is a good start. However, many topics are considered non-fiction, but the scientific community generally does not consider them valid at this point in time. Examples of such topics include:
If your paper is about a topic like one of these, you should talk to your instructor first before going any further in the research process.
Third: consider all of the following (CRAP criteria):
Determine the publisher. Self-published sources are likely not to have gone through the vetting process that gives scholarly credibility. Look up a corporate publisher to find out their reputation in academics and to find out about their vetting process if you can.
*Author/authorship is used here to convey the concept of creator of both written and media sources.
Examine the word choices and imagery used in the source. Informational sources will use more objective and neutral word choices and imagery that appeal to logic and reason rather than emotion. Informational sources will tend to highlight facts over discussions of opinions or beliefs. While some presentations will still cause emotional reactions due to the subject matter, an informational resource will tend to examine the subject more matter-of-factly and objectively.
Fourth: Consider if the item was found initially on social media:
Often stories and images with words circulated on social media are outdated, very heavily biased, blatantly false, or refer to an issue, problem, or situation that has been resolved or no longer exists. It is very important to fact check any story or image before accepting it as current or true. See the social media tab for more information.
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