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BE 1252: Identifying Background Issues

Course Guide for BE1252

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Cambria Huff
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David Dunaway

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Cambria Huff
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Finding ideas for background Information.

To build your knowledge about a topic that you are interested in, it's best to first consult popular/mainstream sources of information. These sources of information are directed at the general reading public and their purpose (usually) is to inform. 

The links below will take you to freely available online popular/mainstream sources of information on issues in agriculture.

Professional Organizations

Evaluating the Reliability of Information Sources - Internet Sources in Particular

As most of you are aware, anyone can post anything on the Internet, either on a site, a blog, a forum through Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.). So how do you determine what sources will benefit your research, and what sources are best to ignore? We evaluate the information and determine its usefulness. So how do we evaluate information? Let's go through these questions:

How you located the site can give you a start on your evaluation of the site's validity as an academic resource.
  • Was it found via a search conducted through a search engine? Unlike library databases, the accuracy and/or quality of information located via a search engine will vary greatly. Look carefully!

  • Was it recommended by a faculty member or another reliable source? Generally, an indicator of reliability.

  • Was it cited in a scholarly or credible source? Generally, an indicator of reliability.

  • Was it a link from a reputable site? Generally, an indicator of reliability.

Think of this as "decoding" the URL, or Internet address. The origination of the site can provide indications of the site's mission or purpose. The most common domains are:
  • .org :An advocacy web site, such as a not-for-profit organization.

  • .com : A business or commercial site.

  • .net:A site from a network organization or an Internet service provider.;

  • .edu :A site affiliated with a higher education institution.

  • .gov: A federal government site.

  • :A state government site, this may also include public schools and community colleges.

  • .uk (United Kingdom) : A site originating in another country (as indicated by the 2 letter code).

  • ~:The tilde usually indicates a personal page.

Look for information on the author of the site. On the Internet anyone can pose as an authority.
  • Is the author's name visible? Does the author have an affiliation with an organization or institution?

  • Does the author list his or her credentials? Are they relevant to the information presented? 

  • Is there a mailing address or telephone number included, as well as an e-mail address? 

There are no standards or controls on the accuracy of information available via the Internet. 
The Internet can be used by anyone as a sounding board for their thoughts and opinions.
  • How accurate is the information presented? Are sources of factual information or statistics cited? Is there a bibliography included?

  • Compare the page to related sources, electronic or print, for assistance in determining accuracy. 

  • Does the page exhibit a particular point of view or bias? 

  • Is the site objective? Is there a reason the site is presenting a particular point of view on a topic? 

  • Does the page contain advertising? This may impact the content of the information included.Look carefully to see if there is a relationship between the advertising and the content, or whether the advertising is simply providing financial support for the page.  

This is both an indicator of the timeliness of the information and whether or not the page is actively maintained.
  • Is the information provided current?
  • When was the page created?
  • Are dates included for the last update or modification of the page?
  • Are the links current and functional?

The ease of use of a site and its ability to help you locate information you are looking for are examples of the site's functionality.
  • Is the site easy to navigate? Are options to return to the home page, tops of pages, etc., provided?
  • Is the site searchable?
  • Does the site include a site map or index?

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