INT 101 Robertson

last modified 2018-04-11T16:34:14-04:00

This guide introduces you to conducting research at Mercer University, and contains information and sources to help you complete your research assignment. If you need any further help, please contact Adam Griggs via or at 478-301-2934, or ask a librarian at the library desk. 


In Class Activity

With a partner, evaluate the appropriateness of the following resources for your annotated bibliography assignment. Ask the following questions to help:

  • Is it peer-reviewed?
  • Would you use it in your annotated bibliography? Why or why not?
  • If you would not use it for your assignment, what can you use it for?

Example 1     Example 2     Example 3

Example 4     Example 5     Example 6


Background Reading and Forming a Topic

When you first start working on an assignment, it can be very helpful to spend a few minutes thinking about your topic and where you want to go with the assignment. For some topics, you might need to start by doing pre-research, where you look for general background information on your topic to learn a little more. This background information then helps you focus your search and choose a topic to write about. Try some of the following strategies if you're not sure where to start:

  • If you don't have a topic in mind, try looking at CQ Researcher or TOPICsearch, or just looking at recent news, to generate ideas
  • Try to imagine what words someone answering your research question might use
  • Look up synonyms and related topics or phrases
  • Try working with a partner – getting a different perspective is often invaluable
  • Identify any common misunderstandings or related topics that you DON’T want in your results

Scholarly and Popular Articles

(For more information, see this guide)

Most sources of information fall into one of these two categories. Here's how they're different:

"Scholarly" (aka "academic" or "peer-reviewed") periodicals are usually published by an association, institution, or scholarly press. They contain articles written by scholars, professors, and researchers in a particular discipline, and are intended for other scholars and researchers in the field. Articles published in these journals are sent to other experts in the field to be reviewed prior to publication.

“Popular” periodicals are publications that are intended for the general public, and whose main purpose is usually entertainment. Articles in these publications are generally written by paid journalists or columnists, and reviewed by an editor.

Reasons to use Scholarly Sources:

  • They are generally the most highly valued source of information in academic circles
  • They are written by and reviewed by experts in the field
  • The information they contain critically examines some aspect of the world

Reasons to use Popular Sources:

  • They are easier to understand because they are written for the general public
  • They are more likely to contain information on recent events
  • They can give you an insight into what type of information is available to the general populace on a subject

Evaluating Sources

Depending on your field of study and current topic, you may use a variety of resources in your research. You will need to evaluate all of them to determine whether or not they are reliable and relevant to your current project. Whether you have a book, article, website, or other source, you can use the C.R.A.P. Test to decide whether or not it's worth including in your resource list. (download a printable version here)

C.R.A.P. Test

Currency: Is the information recent enough for your topic/field of research?

  • Was it published in the last __ years or around the time of an original event?

Relevancy: Does the information apply to your topic?

  • Is it a primary or secondary source?
  • How much of the information applies to your topic?
  • Is the information general or detailed, balanced or biased?

Authority: Who authored this information? Are they a trustworthy source of information?

  • Was it a single person or several people?
  • Was it a corporation or organization?
  • Are their credentials provided?
  • Are methods/references provided?
  • Was it peer-reviewed?

Purpose: Why was this written?

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information intended to inform, persuade, sell, entertain, …?
  • Is this a first-hand account of an event or research?
  • Does the author have a vested interest in the topic?

The above are questions to consider - you do not need to answer every question about every source. Just remember to think about it before citing!


Citing Sources

APA Style Guide - created and maintained by the Purdue OWL, this guide covers the basics of citing in APA style.

Ask a Librarian for more help! Librarians at the research desk are happy to help you cite your sources.