Choosing Expert Sources
When you do research for a science project (or any other academic work), you want to make sure you find information that is true. We don't want to get our scientific information from just anywhere. We want to make sure we are getting our information from expert sources. Here are some ideas of how to choose expert sources online:
- Government Organizations (.gov)
If the URL (web address) has .gov, the source is a government agency. It's probably an expert source.
- Colleges and Universities (.edu)
Websites with .edu in the URL are usually colleges or universities. These are often expert sources. Be careful, though. Sometimes they are student projects. Check to see who writes the page.
- Major News Sources
(Newspapers, Magazines, TV News, Major News Websites)
Professional reporters (aka journalists) do a lot of research to help them learn about the topics they write about. Their articles are usually (but not always) accurate and full of good information. This is not always true about people who just go online and write their own blog. Make sure you are using major news organizations. Not sure if it's a major news outlet? Ask your teacher or your parents, or Google it to see what other peple say about that source.
- Check the Author
If the website is written by a person or organization who specialize in the topic you are researching, it is probably an expert source. Sometimes information about the author is right on the page. Sometimes you can click on the organization's home page or on the "About Us" link to find out about the organization.
Other Clues that Information is Reliable
- Use Multiple Sources
If only one source is giving the facts you see, and other professional sources disagree, that might mean your source has it wrong. Don't just trust the first source you use, especially if it's not a professional expert organization.
- Search Keywords Only
When you type "How does sand form?" you might get expert sources, but you will also get a lot more sources like "Yahoo Answers" and other non-expert sites. You can find more expert sites by choosing key academic words for your search, like "sand formation."
Choose Sources You Understand
Many students do a Google search; then they use the first source they come across that has information about their topic. A lot of websites are written at a high school or college level, though. Remember, your goal is to understand your topic. If you don't understand your source, it won't help you.
- Simple English Wikipedia
While some teachers want you to avoid Wikipedia, I encourage you to use articles you understand. For academic topics, Wikipedia is a pretty reliable source. When experts compared it to the Encyclopedia Britannica, they found a tie for accuracy (though there were errors in both). Many teachers are under the mistaken impression that anyone can edit Wikipedia articles, but they do have an editorial review process to ensure that experts are the ones to edit the articles. (For more detail, see this LiveScience article.)
- BrainPOP (Ask your teacher for the username and password.)
- Add the word "kids" to your Google search.
If you were planning to search for "squid," type "squid kids" instead. You'll find a lot more sources that are intended for students.