Finding information is really just the beginning. It is even more important to determine if the journal article, book, or report you find is relevant to your topic and appropriate for your research. It is also important to use the information you find accurately and ethically. This section provides an overview of the criteria used to evaluate information and an introduction to plagiarism and citing information.
Evaluating information can be difficult because of the amount of information available, especially on the Web. Anyone can quickly post their material on a website or blog.
Below are checklists of things to consider when evaluating different information sources:
- Checklist for Evaluating Websites (pdf)
- Checklist for Evaluating Articles (pdf)
- Checklist for Evaluating Books (pdf)
For more information on evaluating these sources, see the Evaluating Information Tutorial.
Plagiarism is intellectual theft. It is the presentation of another's ideas as your own, without appropriate academic citation. It is a misuse of information ethics, and has been recognized as a violation of copyright law. Students increasingly use the Web to do research. To avoid plagiarizing, remember that the same rules apply to information found on the Web as to information found in print sources. Sometimes plagiarism is committed intentionally, and sometimes people accidentally misuse the works of others; both are serious violations. Review the UNC Honor Code and the Instrument of Student Judicial Governance, Section II.B.1. for information on how the university defines and responds to plagiarism.
One of the best ways to avoid plagiarism is to give credit whenever you:
- Use another person's words, ideas, opinions or theories
- Present facts, statistics, graphs and drawings that are not common knowledge
- Quote someone's written or spoken words
- Paraphrase someone's written or spoken words
No matter where your information comes from, it is important that you record the information in your papers accurately and follow the citation style that is appropriate for the discipline.
APA Style citation format was established by the American Psychological Association and is preferred by most social science disciplines.
MLA Style citation format was established by the Modern Language Association and is preferred by most humanities disciplines.
Chicago Style citation format was established by the University of Chicago Press and is preferred by writers in the arts and humanities.
CSE/CBE Style citation format was established by the Council of Biology Editors and is preferred by writers in biology, geology, chemistry, mathematics, medicine, and physics.
For more information on citation styles, visit the Citing Information Tutorial.