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GOV 2302: Science-Technology Policy: Search Strategy and Source Evaluation Resources

Research Strategies

Types of Information Sources

Source types make up the scope of the literature you are searching. Common source types (which can be in print or online) include:

  • Books that encompass a single work.
  • Books that incorporate multiple works (such as a collection of essays by scholars).
  • Journal articles (look for peer-reviewed articles).
  • Conference Papers.
  • Technical Reports.
  • News articles.
  • Websites (such as government or NGO websites).

Please see the chart below for further discussion of resource types and the kinds of information each resource conveys. As students begin to approach the research process, they should ask themselves what kinds of informational needs they may have for their projects or course assignments, as well as how different types of resources address some of these needs.

Questions to Ask When Evaluating the Sources You Find:

The 5 Ws The Surface-Level Questions The Deeper Questions


Who is the author, editor, or creator? Is the author qualified to write about this topic? 

What makes them qualified? First-hand experience? An advanced degree?


What type of document is it? For example, is it a newspaper article? A blog? A government website? A scholarly article? A book?  

What is it about?

Is the source type appropriate for the type of research you are doing?

Is it relevant to your research?


When was this source published? 

Is the publication date appropriate for the type of research you are doing?


Where did the authors get their information from? Are citations provided?

Did the authors cite sources that are credible? 


What was the goal of the author or publisher?

Who is the intended audience?

Is there bias? Bias does not necessarily negate credibility. We all have biases. The question then becomes: are those biases disclosed? Do they impact the quality of the information?

Was this source created for a scholarly audience or a more general audience?

Do your best to find the answers to these questions. Use these questions to help answer the broader question: Is this source appropriate to use for the research that I am conducting?

Evaluating sources is an ongoing activity you will do throughout your research, and it includes evaluation of your own search process. As you search, pay attention to the keywords and phrases you are using. Are you looking for information that will only confirm what you already suspect? Or are you looking for possibly contradictory or opposing information as well? Do you have any 'go-to' sources that you use to find information? Or are you using a variety of search tools and looking for different points of view? 

Keywords & Subject Headings: When looking for resources in the Gordon Library catalog, a good initial strategy to guide your search is using subject headings as your keywords. Subject headings are preferred, standardized terms developed by subject area experts, whereas 'keywords' are generally based upon natural or subjective language. In this way, Subject Headings are a kind of controlled vocabulary, and they form the organizational backbone of searchable platforms, which facilitate automated, efficient searching. Many libraries (WPI included) use Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH)--which are generated by the Library of Congress--as their preferred terms. As it relates to searching, the key difference is that Keyword searches look at most (if not all) of the words in a catalog record, but subject searches only look for words in the subject heading fields (6XX). As a result, subject searches are more precise, so subject search results will be more specific. Consider some of the approaches recommended by librarians in the following video--

Developing keywords for research

Run Time: 2:44

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What are Keywords? (0:22)
  • Sample--Generating Keywords (0:38)
  • Effectively Using Keywords (0:53)
  • Using a Thesaurus (1:34)
  • Refining Search Results (1:48)
  • Evaluating a Library Record (2:10)


Check out some of the following tutorials related to the research process.

Library Searching in 60 Seconds

Run Time: 1:03

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • Gordon Library Homepage (0:15)
  • Search Overview (0:30)
  • Filters (0:45)

Locating relevant databases for research

Run Time: 2:27

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • Understanding Relevance in Relation to Research Needs (0:21)
  • Understanding Databases (0:46)
  • Locating Databases (1:04)
  • Search Databases A-Z (1:04)
  • Search Databases by Subject (1:33)
  • Search Databases by Type of Resource (2:09)

Finding full-text videos

Run Time: 2:55

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • Why Search for Full-Text Articles? (0:30)
  • Sample Full-Text Search via SCOPUS (0:52)
  • Sample Search w/ Strategies (1:18)
  • Search Tips (1:27- 2:06)
  • Filters (2:10)

Peer Review Overview 

Run Time: 2:52

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What is Peer-Review? (0:10)
  • The Impact of Peer-Review Processes (0:50)
  • The Peer-Review Process (1:39)
  • Locating Peer-Reviewed Articles via the Gordon Library (2:25)


The following tutorials will help students identify valid, legitimate, and scholarly appropriate information for student research.


Run Time: 3:17

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What is TRAAP? (0:05)
  • Timeliness (0:26)
  • Relevance (1:03)
  • Authority (1:46)
  • Accuracy (2:15)
  • Purpose (2:40)


Run Time: 1:52

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What is SIFT? (0:12)
  • Step 1: STOP (0:19)
  • Step 2: Investigate (0:41)
  • Step 3: Find (1:05)
  • Step 4: Trace (1:36)