5. How to select materials?
How to find relevant sources?
Are the sources reliable?
Taking notes
Making a reference list
Example of a list of references

How to find relevant sources?

When you get many sources as an answer to your query you have to rationalise reading those. You cannot read everything page by page. In books you can glance the table of contents first and find the relevant headings. If there is an introduction or summary section read those. Also articles sometimes have an abstract you can read to see what the article is all about. Some of the material found might not be relevant. To be able to choose the best materials you have to have a clear picture about your task and needs!


Was it easy to find source material? Was there something you did not find?
In the beginning we thought there would surely be an abundance of material on a subject like this but we were wrong. There was more than enough material on nuclear energy but very little on its use in Europe. Due to this the plans were modified so that first we familiarized ourselves with the subject together, after which each of us got their own, more detailed topic on which to find more information.

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Are the sources reliable?

When you try to evaluate the reliability of a source you should not concentrate only in the text itself. You also have to ask who has written the text? For what purpose is it written for? Where is it published? Sometimes there are ideologies, financial gains or other factors affecting objectivity and reliability.

How can you evaluate the sources found from Internet?
The most important thing is your own purpose and information needs: does the material satisfy your needs?

How well founded, trustworthy and reliable the content of the resource is? Are there any references used? Is the purpose of the material described? Has the content been evaluated by someone else than the author? Are there any URLs mentioned to support the content?

How correct is the information? If you find spelling mistakes and bad language it is not a good sign! Are there referencies mentioned? Does the writer tell about his/her expertise in the area?

What is the expertise, reputation and status of the source? By whom has the source been published (a university, an organisation vs. induvidual homepages)? How well known is the author? Are the contact information presented in the material?

How much information is there that cannot be obtained from some other source? Are the links referring outside the material to things done by other people?

Is the material available online in its entirety? Is there a contents page? Are there many pages under construction? Is there a site map?

How well does the material cover the topic area? Is there a contents page, an index, a site map, a list of references?


What caused problems in evaluating the reliability of source materials?
How reliable can one consider the information found on the Internet? Is it as reliable as that found in a book? Our group bought the information on the Internet lock, stock, and barrel...

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Taking notes

How can you remember the relevant information from each source? There are different techniques for notetaking. Copying and underlining are of course of the easiest methods. But there are also other techniques that might help you more in processing the information: writing summaries about texts, writing key ideas in your own words and discussions with other students. You can also draw mindmaps, concept maps or system diagrams.

When you are making the notes you should not give too much thought to the report to be made: the time to organise the information in right order and grammatical form comes later. Hopefully you have a word processor to make your editing work easier!

Already when you are reading the materials and taking notes you should make the list of references. It is much easier done this way!


How do you make notes from the sources? What kind of problems did you have in using source material? How did you solve them?
We will collect all the information we have found on sheets of A4 sized paper and go through it together, when we will get confused about the last references and it will be almost impossible to remember where each bit of information comes from. At that stage we will all try to use our heads and memories to the best of our abilities to make the text more readable, and not directly copied from somewhere.

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Making a list of references

When you are reporting your work it is essential to give references to the materials where you have found the facts, definitions of concepts, theories etc. References are given even when you write the text in your own words and it is not copied from the source. Actually you should put everything that you cite (copy) from a source in quotation marks ".". That is done to make clear to the reader what ideas you have learned or taken from other writers and what ideas are your own opinions or interpretations.

Some of your readers might be interested to find out where you found your information. They might want to look at the same books or journals while doing their own project. Therefore, it is important to tell where did you find your information!

References are listed alphabetically in the end of a written report. In the list of references you should give such detailed information about the source that a reader who wants to find the source can locate it:

Authors' surname, First name (year of publishing the book). Title of the book. Place of publishing: Publisher.

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For example:
Carter, John (1991) Sea Animals. New York: Animal Press.

To Internet sources you refer a little differently:

Authors' surname, First name (date of accessing the material on web). Title of the web-pages. The http-address.

Huovinen, Liisa (1.9.1999). Links to web-based learning environments. http://www.helsinki.fi/~huovinen/links.htm


Did you have difficulties with the references? Why?
Writing down references in this paper was not easy because the sources were mainly different locations on the Internet and it was difficult to keep them in order till the end, so that they would still be at the right place at the right time when it was time to write them down in the text and the References-section.

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