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COMM 100 Webber: Topics & source quality

In the research process: Web

1. Identify an arguable topic
(non-library sources)
2. Learn the background (library Discovery tool: books)
3. Discover scholarly conversations (library databases: journal articles)
4. Support your argument (source citation)
5. Rinse, repeat; drafts & revisions (research librarians, writing center)

Topics and source quality

You may find current information about your topic in websites as these tend to be updated frequently. This is "news," and as the word itself indicates, the information is new. Try to locate news sources from reliable sources such as newspapers or magazines that are well established. 

Example news article: Dominion Voting Systems sues Giuliani over election claims (

Great article, but is this news source reliable? About Us | AP

Use your research topic to make a keyword list

"I read that former NYC mayor Rudy Guiliani is getting sued by Dominion voting systems for libel and slander of their product."

Keywords:               Dominion voting system      Rudy Guiliani          libel and slander      defamation   

    Related:                civil cases          criminal cases        freedom of speech          case law       

                                        First Amendment               court           United States


Where will you search? Sources & quality

The "libel and slander" example above is certainly interesting, but I'll need a minimum of 3 sources to support my academic presentation. 

Your audience: College-educated, some are experts in things like communication, politics, government, medicine, psychology, etc. 

Which sources will persuade or best inform them? 


Popular sources? These are things like news websites, Tweets, blogs, or articles published in magazines that contain ads and appeal to as many readers as possible. 


Scholarly sources? These are often books that have been reviewed by academic librarians or articles published in scholarly journals in which the content is reviewed for quality by highly-credentialed experts. These tend to be written by experts for experts.

Can your professor tell the difference? Yes. Usually just a quick glance at an APA citation is all it takes.