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CS 3023: Research Methods in Information Technology: Finding Articles

More Tools for your Research

Why "peer-reviewed"?

Peer-reviewed journal articles have gone through a special review process (peer review, naturally). This means scholars of a discipline have read an article carefully and determined that it makes a worthwhile contribution and was researched correctly. This is why instructors prefer you to use peer-reviewed articles -- it guarantees that your sources are good ones.

Evaluating articles -- the CRAAP test

What is the CRAAP Test? It’s a way to quickly evaluate an article or other source and decide whether it’s something you should use for your research.

Currency

  • Is the article recent? Is it possible that there’s been newer research since the article was first written?
  • Does the article deal with a subject where information changes quickly (e.g. technology or biology)? In this case, try to use more recent articles.
  • Hint: database articles will tell you when they were written. You can usually limit your search to a particular range of dates (e.g. last five years).

Relevance

  • Does the article address your research needs? Does it relate to the topic you’re looking at?
  • Hint: you might find an article that doesn’t exactly address your topic but is related. When this happens, looking at footnotes/endnotes to find other sources might be useful.

Authority

  • Who is the author, and what makes them qualified to talk about this subject?
  • Hint: many databases will include authors’ affiliation (for example, they’ll say the authors are from such-and-such university).

Accuracy

  • How much can you depend on this article?
  • Hint: if you found it in a database search for scholarly or peer-reviewed articles, it’s more likely to be reliable and unbiased.

Purpose

  • Is the article meant to enlighten or share new knowledge? Or is it meant to push a particular opinion, or even sell something?
  • Hint: pay attention to the language. If an article presents information in a biased way, think carefully about whether you want to cite it.

Databases

We have other databases that'll be particularly helpful in finding articles on topics in computer sciences:

Using ACM

The most efficient way to search ACM Digital Library is to search for your keyword and then narrow down the scope of your results from the initial range of results. For example, if I were looking for articles that mention both human-computer interaction and interfaces, that's exactly the search string I'd use:

Once you have your initial list of results, you can narrow the scope using the tools in the left-hand sidebar. The most useful of these may be the ability to limit your results only to those from certain years:

Once we've found a citation we're interested in reading, we can click into the description of the article to see a summary and to read the article itself:

Note the section for "References." These are very useful for finding articles on similar topics, if this one is especially useful to you. The database will link directly out to references if they're included in ACM:

General and Multidisciplinary Databases

When your instructor asks you to use peer-reviewed articles, a database is where you'll find them. There are databases for any subject you can think of, and they'll usually let you limit your search (for example only to peer-reviewed articles, or to articles from the past five years).