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Can I Use This?

Can I Use This - Where

This is the fifth of seven video modules in Langara Library's Can I Use This? Evaluating Your Sources Tutorial. This video examines the "Where" critieria of the 5Ws. Use this criteria to determine where the author got their information, and whether they cited their sources or not.

Video Transcript:

The third W in our criteria is for where. When looking at a source we will ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Where did the author or authors get their information?
  • Does the author use outside sources?
  • What kinds of sources are they using, and if so, how does the author cite them?

Let's try another search in the library's Quick Topic search. As you do your research, you may find citations to articles or books that will be useful for your assignment. This time, let's say we know of a government report called Canadian Smog Science Assessment: Highlights and Key Messages, that will be of use to us and we'd like to see if it's available through the library. You can use the library website to see if Langara has access to the source online or in the print collection. As we start to read the report, we should be looking for hints about where the information in this report is coming from.

At first glance, we can already see a few citations. Generally, reliable sources will use citations to indicate where they got their information and who they're interacting with. This gives credit to the author of the original source and allows readers to find the information for themselves - the same reason why it is so important to cite the sources that you use in your own research assignments. In this report, the authors cite sources using a consistent citation style in the form of footnotes.

To learn more about different citation styles or how to use citations in your own assignments, please visit the library's Citing Your Sources page.

In some disciplines, data and statistics are important information sources. If you see statistics, ask where those numbers are coming from. Sometimes it will be research findings from another study. Other times it will be findings from original research the authors conducted themselves. If you're using sources that don't have citations, you may have more difficulty answering questions about where the author's information is coming from. Newspapers, magazines, or blogs may use things like interviews, scholarly articles, government studies, or other popular articles as sources. Websites and social media may not give you any indication at all.

If a source lacks citations, it doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't use it. It does mean that you should be aware of your source's weaknesses and consider your assignment's requirements.

In the next module we will introduce the fourth W - when which asks us to think about when the source was published.