Wednesday, April 29

Posted by Laurel Garver on Wednesday, April 29, 2015 2 comments
Not all research materials are created equal. Take anything you find on the Internet with a grain of salt, especially Wikipedia articles that aren’t heavily annotated with cross references to reputable sources (ones that are fact-checked).

Photo credit: kakisky from
Is the person who wrote the book you’ve picked up genuinely considered an expert in the field? Are the reviews positive? Seek published reviews, not simply those posted on Amazon, which anyone could write, even someone with an axe to grind—like a jilted lover or former student who flunked the author’s class because he was too lazy to do any of the assignments.

Be aware that even published reviews can reflect some strange biases that don’t necessarily negate the value of the author’s work. Agendas abound in academia especially, and a young scholar might try to build a reputation levying strange accusations against older scholars for not, say, spending enough time on a hobby-horse topic.

As you might gather, trying to sort out who is worth listening to can become a major time-suck. But by doing a little due diligence on a few books, you should be able to build up a short list of reputable voices on your topic, be those scholarly journals, national journalism organs, or simply well-informed bloggers.

At times, there’s really no substitute for going directly to the best source. For tips on finding experts, see my post Expertise is Everywhere, and for tips on conducting informational interviews, see my post Channel Your Inner Reporter.

How do you typically determine whether a source is high quality or simply bogus?


  1. I just wrote a post on research today! I recently began researching for my book and I've been using mostly internet sources. This was a really good reminder to double check the validity.

    1. Glad it was so timely for you, Anne Marie. There can be really good stuff online, mixed with a whole lot of hokey, useless stuff. My journalism training (plus years working in academic publishing) has made me super cautious about any information that hasn't been vetted by someone who is truly qualified and in the know.