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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

POLI SCI 499CE : Is Democracy Possible Everywhere?


Why not just use Google?

Google is a great resource for quick answers, but it's not the best place to go for scholarly research. Google results are sorted by an algorithm that puts more emphasis on the popularity of a site. Just because a site is popular, doesn't mean it's reliable!

What about Google Scholar?

Google Scholar limits its results to articles published in academic journals, so they tend to be more reliable. However, the full-text of the articles are usually not available online. UMass Libraries pays for subscriptions to databases to give students and faculty access to the full text of scholarly articles. In addition, these databases allow you to perform more advanced and specific searches than you could with Google Scholar.

Is Wikipedia a reliable source?

Wikipedia is often the first result when doing a Google (or Bing, etc.) search. Wikipedia is useful to get a general idea about something, but in itself it is not reliable (because anyone can change it). Instead, a good Wikipedia article will have many reliable sources cited. Look at those sources instead.

Can I use ChatGPT?

ChatGPT is useful for things like cleaning up your writing, or coming up with ideas for birthday presents. However, there are limitations to its use such as:

  1. Its "knowledge" ends at 2021 so it cannot give you current information;
  2. It has a tendency to make up facts and sources (when it provides sources at all);
  3. It can be biased due to the data it was trained on.

Other AI chatbots have the same issues. Like Wikipedia, information from ChatGPT must be double-checked.

How do I know if a source is reliable and/or truthful?

Articles from a peer-reviewed journal are considered reliable. Articles from magazines and newspapers are also reliable. Sometimes, if you're not familiar with a source, you might have to analyze it or consult a fact-checking site.

UMass Libraries has a Fake News library guide with information on how to judge whether you should rely on a source for your research. Sites such as Media Bias / Fact Check examine the truthfulness and bias of various news providers. You can also use tools such as the CRAAP Test to judge for yourself whether to put faith in a source (CRAAP stands for currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose).

What is a peer-reviewed journal?

A peer-reviewed article or journal (also known as "refereed") is one that is checked for accuracy and sound methodology by at least one other expert in the field (i.e. a peer). Newspaper and magazine articles are checked by editors and fact-checkers, but not by others who specialize in the subject, so they are not peer-reviewed. The journal home page should indicate whether it is peer-reviewed. In many of UMass Libraries' databases, you can limit your search to peer-reviewed journals.

Library resources