This is the second of seven video modules in Langara Library's Can I Use This? Evaluating Your Sources Tutorial. This video introduces the concepts in this series including types of sources and how they fit into the information life cycle. It also introduces a sample research question to be examined using the 5W method.
Before we begin, we will review the kinds of sources you will likely be using for your research papers. From the library website you will be able to find books, scholarly articles, popular articles, and reports. Some assignments may also allow you to use websites found through internet searching. In this tutorial, we will look at several example sources that will help you apply the 5W criteria to sources you find for your projects, reports, or other research assignments.
If you're unfamiliar with the differences between popular and scholarly articles, or don't know where to start looking for scholarly sources, visit the research help guides on the library website.
When researching a specific topic, it is also helpful to consider the information life cycle. This life cycle will help you decide what kinds of sources you will be able to find on recent works of literature, trends, or significant world events. Popular newspapers, websites, and magazines will publish information much more quickly than scholarly journals.
If you would like to write about a very recent event, you will find news or popular magazine stories, but you may not be able to find scholarly research. For example, on March 11, 2011, a tsunami hit the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, causing radioactive material to be released into the environment. This was a significant disaster that left many survivors of the initial incident without homes and with long-term health risks. From this chart, we can see the information life cycle that occurred following the disaster.
The day of the event, websites, social media, television, and blogs were covering the story. In the following days, it was printed in physical newspapers.
After a few weeks, popular magazines were publishing more in-depth stories.
Several months or even years later, articles will be published in scholarly journals. This is because scholarly articles require extensive research, editing, and peer review. We will return to the topic of peer review in a later module.
Finally, several years after an event, you will see books appear that are extremely well researched accounts of the event.
With these ideas in mind, let's get started with the five W criteria. For this tutorial, we will use a sample research question to guide our analysis of several different sources. Our question is: how do air pollutants impact human health? Our instructor has asked us to use at least one scholarly source to support our analysis. This implies that we may also use popular sources such as websites, magazines, or newspapers in our research as long as we are looking at scholarly books and articles as well. Depending on the nature of our assignments, it will sometimes be appropriate, and even preferable, to use non-scholarly sources. If you're ever in doubt about whether or not you are able to use popular sources, be sure to ask your instructor.
Now that we have our research question, we're ready to look at our first W: who.