Your instructor may have asked you to carefully evaluate your sources that you plan to use in your research paper or speech or lab report. Why is this necessary? With the prevalence of fake news on the internet, it is prudent to weed out sources that may give false information. It is also necessary to determine if a source is biased, meaning that the information may not reveal all the facts surrounding the topic you are researching. Use these guides to help evaluate your sources:

Source Bias by Cornell University

The CRAAP Test by California State University-Chico

The SIFT Method by Mike Caulfield

Evaluating Sources for Credibility (Video) by North Carolina State University

How to Spot Fake News by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions

Evaluating Sources Checklist by the Modern Language Association

Evaluating News by the University of South Carolina Upstate

Your instructor will most likely provide guidance on how they want your papers formatted. Please follow their instructions first. Then if you need more help, use the guides provided here, or talk to someone in the Learning Commons Writing Lab, or speak to a librarian.

APA - American Psychological Association (APA) style is a writing format used in the social sciences, including Nursing. It dictates the format of a paper's cover page, abstract, body and in-text citations, and references used. The APA Style Guide is currently in its 7th edition (2019), so always double-check your sources to ensure they are using the most current rules. Visit the APA Style website or the Purdue OWL website to learn more.

Chicago - The Chicago Notes and Bibliography (NB) system is often used in the humanities to provides writers with a system for referencing their sources through the use of footnotes, endnotes, and through the use of a bibliography. This offers writers a flexible option for citation and provides an outlet for commenting on those sources, if needed. Proper use of the Notes and Bibliography system builds a writer’s credibility by demonstrating their accountability to source material. In addition, it can protect writers from accusations of plagiarism, which is the intentional or accidental uncredited use of source material created by others (text from Purdue OWL). Visit the Purdue OWL website, Chicago Manual of Style Online website, and the City Colleges of Chicago website for more information.

MLA - Modern Language Association (MLA) Format is a writing style used mainly by Humanities classes. The MLA publishes and regularly updates The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, the official guide to using MLA format. The MLA Handbook is now in its 8th edition (2016), so if you refer to any books or web sites to help you formulate your paper, make sure the source is using the most up-to-date edition to avoid penalties from your instructor. Visit the Purdue OWL website for more information.

Library Resources



Types of Information you can find:
  • Scholarly Journal Articles
  • Newspaper Articles
  • Reviews
  • Empirical Evidence
  • Primary Sources
  • Popular, commercial, educational websites
  • Current news & events
  • Directories
  • Few free journal articles & books
Credibility & Review:
  • Subject specific books & articles
  • Peer reviewed resources
  • Evaluated for accuracy & credibility
  • Anyone can publish
  • Not always evaluated for accuracy & credibility
Discovering Information:
  • Use limits and other database functions, and subject headings to discover material
  • Less ability to search for more precise & accurate results

The information you generally find on the web is from the small 20% of the internet called the visible web. The other 80% of information lies in the invisible web. Some of this "invisible" information, like the library's databases, can only be accessed with a paid subscription. 

When conducting research for an assignment, it is generally preferred that you use scholarly articles found in the library's databases. See the library's online catalog for database information.

You may ask "What about Google Scholar"? Google Scholar is not a database. It is simply a search engine that scours the visible web for scholarly articles. Many times, you only get abstracts or partial articles and are required to pay for access to the full articles. Our college does not subscribe to Google Scholar, so you cannot automatically link to our library database articles via Google Scholar; on the other hand, Google Scholar is a good alternative to just a plain Google search. If you do find an article abstract on Google Scholar, and you are blocked from accessing the actual article, log in to the MPCC Library Catalog and search the article title on the databases to see if the article is there. Please note that MPCC does not have access to every single database or every single article that you may want. However, we will do our best to find most of the articles that you will ever need for your research.

Plagiarize (verb)

  • To steal and pass of (the ideas and words of another) as one's own: use (another's production) without crediting the source.
  • To commit literary theft; present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source.

MPCC Academic Honesty Policy

Mid-Plains Community College is committed to academic integrity and honesty. Plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, obtaining unauthorized materials from the internet, allowing others to write or compose your work; or using the work of other students, not citing the original sources, facilitating misconduct, and assisting others in actions that are related to these issues of academic dishonesty.

Penalties could include:

  • May result in a lower or failing grade or score on the assignment or examination (instructor level).
  • Additional work to provide evidence of the student’s academic performance and/or evidence that the student knows and understands the course material (instructor level).
  • A lower or failing grade in the course (instructor level).
  • Suspension or expulsion from the college (institutional level).

For more information on MPCC's Academic Honesty Policy, visit the College Course Catalog.

Avoiding Plagiarism

What is Peer Review?

In academic publishing, the goal of peer review is to assess the quality of articles submitted for publication in a scholarly journal. Before an article is deemed appropriate to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, it must undergo the following process:

  • The author of the article must submit it to the journal editor who forwards the article to experts in the field. Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).
  • These impartial reviewers are charged with carefully evaluating the quality of the submitted manuscript.
  • The peer reviewers check the manuscript for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and procedures.
  • If appropriate, they suggest revisions. If they find the article lacking in scholarly validity and rigor, they reject it.

Because a peer-reviewed journal will not publish articles that fail to meet the standards established for a given discipline, peer-reviewed articles that are accepted for publication exemplify the best research practices in a field.

How Do I Find Peer-Reviewed Articles?

The easiest and fastest way to find peer-reviewed articles is to search the online library databases, many of which include peer-reviewed journals.

To make sure your results come from peer-reviewed (also called "scholarly" or "academic") journals, do the following:

  • Read the database description to determine if it features peer-reviewed articles.
  • When you search for articles, choose the Advanced Search option. On the search screen, look for a check-box that allows you to limit your results to peer-reviewed only.
  • If you didn't check off the "peer-reviewed articles only" box, try to see if your results can organized by source. For example, the database Criminal Justice Abstracts will let you choose the tab "Peer-Reviewed Journals."

What is a Scholarly Article and Why is It Important? By Coastal Carolina University (PDF)

Boolean Operators

Consider using special words called Boolean operators: AND, OR, and NOT. These words give the database additional information about how to process a search that uses more than one term. Let’s look at some examples.

  • AND tells the database to retrieve all of the results that contain both Term A and Term B. It narrows the search by leaving out results in which one term, but not the other, is used.
  • OR tells the database to retrieve all of the results that contain either Term A or Term B. It expands the search to include all instances where either term appears. This will be the largest set of results — remember it as “OR means more.”
  • NOT tells the database to include one term but exclude the other. It narrows the search by leaving out any result that contains the second term.

A Boolean operator should always appear in all capital letters. This tells the database to use the capitalized word as an instruction, not as a word that is part of your search.

You can use Boolean operators not just with single words, but with phrases in quotation marks. For example, to search for information on bicycle lanes and traffic safety, link the two phrases together with AND.

For a more complex search, you can use parentheses to group a set of Boolean operators. The database will perform the commands inside the parentheses first, then process the results.

Source: JSTOR: Research Basics for Students