STS 011: Science on Trial

by Sheena M Campbell, Nancy Wallace, Melinda M. Livas – September 13, 2021

Science on Trial: an Introduction to Science and Law in America

For your final assignment, you will need to gather at least reliable books, articles, or online resources to improve the overall quality of the Wikipedia article you’ve selected. This guide will help you to navigate the library catalog, collections, and databases to identify sources, as well as providing guidance to assess the credibility of sources.

A resource does not have to be academic to be credible. Critical evaluation of information is always essential, but especially if it is not already vetted by people who are familiar with the field, and with methods to determine the reliability of the information. For this assignment, it will be helpful to refer to criteria for evaluating Wikipedia articles: Wikipedia’s Good Article Criteria

If you have any questions or would like assistance with finding, accessing, or evaluating sources please contact Sheena!

Sheena Campbell

Student Services Department
Student Services Librarian


In this Guide:

Develop a strategy! This will help you focus your search, locate relevant information and save time.

It’s necessary to do some preliminary research on your topic to gather background information that will help you to determine the scope of your inquiry (what aspects of your research topic will you investigate) and search terms (the keywords that are used to describe your research topic).

1. Do a Background Check

It’s a good idea to begin your research with resources designed to provide an overview of your topic (reference sources). These include: encyclopedias, dictionaries, reviews, and bibliographies.

Example: Oxford Bibliographies Online

Search through research guides developed cooperatively with scholars and librarians worldwide, combining elements of an annotated bibliography and a high-level encyclopedia for a wide variety of subjects.


2. Identify Keywords

a. Identify the key concepts in your research question.

Example: What are the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing?

b. Build on your key concepts to create Search Terms

hydraulic fracturing —> hydraulic fracturing OR hydraulic fracking OR fracking OR fracked gas OR shale gas extraction

environmental impacts —>  groundwater OR aquifer OR water table; toxicity OR toxicology; seismology OR seismic activity


3. Trace Citations

Looking up the References at the end of encyclopedia entries and other sources can lead you to additional relevant information.

Books are typically broad in scope and can be very helpful for providing context and orienting you to a topic.

1. Advanced Searching


2. Find related sources

Each book in the library catalog has its own item record that will include information related to the book’s topic area, including a summary, Table of Contents, and subject categories.

The Subject field in the library’s catalog can link you to resources that have all been categorized in the subject areas pertaining to your research topic.


3. Evaluate

Books are published by a variety of institutions ranging from academic, commercial, and independent publishers. When evaluating the credibility of a book, it’s important to consider the publisher. If your instructor wants you to rely on scholarly sources then you need to check if your book was published by an academic institution.

  • Example: Raimi, Daniel. The Fracking Debate: The Risks, Benefits, and Uncertainties of the Shale Revolution. Columbia University Press, 2018.

Books published by commercial, popular publishers can also be reliable sources of information but you will need to do some investigating as to the rigor of the editorials process and fact-checking. It’s a great idea to check if the book has an extensive bibliography that enables you to see what information sources the author utilized and the comprehensiveness of their own research process.

Academic research articles are published in scholarly journals. They are highly specialized and their primary audience is experts in a field. They are written assuming readers are already familiar with the research area.

1. Search

Use the scholarly databases listed below to find academic research articles. You can also check the Subject Guides, or use the Databases search option to find additional databases.

Additional video tutorials:


2. Evaluate

Articles are distributed by a variety of publishers and include peer-reviewed scholarly journals, newspapers, magazines, and trade journals. When evaluating the credibility of an article, it’s important to consider the publication. If your instructor wants you to rely on scholarly sources, then you need to check if your article was published by a peer-reviewed academic journal.

  • Example: Atkinson, Nathan, & King, Katie. (2012). Flooding and fracking: A review of extreme weather impacts on drilling activities. Natural Resources & Environment, 27(2), 28-36.


What is peer review?

The process of peer review is one way in which credibility is established in the scientific literature.

How to tell if a source is peer-reviewed?

To check if the article you have found is from a peer-reviewed publication, you can search by the journal’s title in Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory

What if the source isn’t peer-reviewed?

Articles published in newspapers, magazines, and trade journals can also be reliable sources of information but you will need to do some investigating as to the rigor of the editorials process and fact-checking!

BIOSIS Previews Classic [via Clarivate]


BIOSIS Previews is a database designed by biologists for researching the biological sciences literature.
Web of Science Core Collection [via Clarivate Analytics]


Scholarly journals, books, and proceedings in the sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities. Navigate the full citation network.
PubMed [via National Library of Medicine (US)]


PubMed comprises more than 30 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books.
APA PsycInfo [via ProQuest]


APA PsycInfo is published by the American Psychological Associations and provides comprehensive indexing and abstracts of the international psychological literature from the 1800s to the present. Documents indexed include journals, articles, books, dissertations and more. 90% of the 3,000+ titles indexed in APA PsycInfo are peer-reviewed.
Agricultural & Environmental Science Database [via ProQuest]


Coverage of the agricultural and environmental sciences, including scholarly journals, trade and industry journals, magazines, technical reports, conference proceedings, and government publications. Includes the AGRICOLA, TOXLINE, Environmental Sciences and Pollution Management, Ecology Abstracts, and Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) databases. As of 1994, the database also provides coverage of energy-related issues.
TOXLINE [via ProQuest]



Offers access to information in all areas of toxicology, including chemicals and pharmaceuticals, pesticides, environmental pollutants, and mutagens and teratogens. TOXLINE is also part of TOXNET but the ProQuest version of TOXLINE has UC-eLinks which is not enabled in TOXNET.

Coverage: 2000-present
Tags: Forensics, Medicine, Toxicology
Compendex [via Elsevier, Engineering Village]


Compendex is the broadest and most complete engineering literature database available in the world with over 22 million indexed records from 77 countries across 190 engineering disciplines.
INSPEC [via Elsevier]


Inspec provides engineering research information on physics, electrical engineering and electronics, computers and control, mechanical, production engineering, information technology and more. Inspec is on the Engineering Village platform and can be searched together with Ei Compendex.
Business Source Complete [via EBSCO]


Provides full-text for more than 7000 scholarly journals and other sources, including nearly 1100 peer-reviewed business publications. Offers information in nearly every area of business including management, economics, finance, and accounting. [1965 - present]
Coverage: coverage varies by title with some going as far back as 1886.
Tags: Accounting, Business, Economics, Finance, Management, Marketing

Academic research articles are published in scholarly journals. They are highly specialized and their primary audience is experts in a field. They are written assuming readers are already familiar with the research area.

1. Perform an Advanced Search

  • Keyword in the title: Search for website page titles with “fracking”
    • intitle  — intitle:fracking
  • All words in the title: If your search term is made up of more than one word, search for website page titles with both words “hydraulic fracturing”
    • allintitle  — allintitle:hydraulic fracturing
  • Site domain: Select domain parameters to only search through educational institutions (.edu), or governmental sites (.gov)
    • site —
  • File type: Select a certain file type ( .pdf ; .doc ; .ppt) if you want to connect to reports or presentations
    • filetype — filetype:pdf

*Note the spacing of these examples. If a space is inserted between the command and the search term, the search will not work correctly.

2. Evaluate

What if the source isn’t from an educational or government institution?

Information published online from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and many community organizations and citizen scientist organizations can also be reliable sources of information but you will need to do some investigating as to the rigor of their fact-checking!

CriteriaQuestions to Ask
AuthorityWho (person, organization or company) created this source of information?
What are their credentials? What qualifies this person or organization to speak authoritatively about this topic?
What editorial process was involved in confirming the reliability of this information? Is it peer-reviewed?
What does the URL tell you about this source of information (.gov , .edu , .org)?
CurrencyHas this source of information been updated or revised to incorporate recent statistical evidence or events?
Does this source serve as a historical record, or do you need the most up-to-date information on your topic?
Is this source of information omitting a recent study or publication that contradicts their claims or arguments?
TruthHow accurate is this source of information? Can you see evidence that it has undergone a process (peer-review, editorial, fact-checking) to verify the information provided?
What types of evidence have been used to support claims or arguments? Are there links or citations for these sources of evidence?
Are there any existing criticisms about the reliability of the statistical or quantitative data included as evidence to support claims or arguments?
UnbiasedIs the information presented with the stated purpose to change public opinion around a topic?
Does the source of information stand to financially benefit from persuading their reader to adopt a certain opinion about a topic?
Does the source of information seek to change public opinion about a topic using factual evidence gleaned from research, or do they make an appeal based on a particular belief system?
PrivilegeWhat relationship/proximity does the source of information have to the topic? Are they a member of the community, or an eye witness to an event?
Does the source of information speak about members of a community, or witnesses to an event? Or do they conduct interviews/provide quotes from members of a community, or witnesses to an event?
Are all stakeholders around a particular topic investigated, consulted or interviewed?
What is the power dynamic between the source of information and the people or organizations they study?
Adapted from Dawn Stahura's ACT UP Method in “ACT UP for evaluating sources: Pushing against privilege” (2018)



Consider using one of these citation managers to keep track of your sources and generate citations:

For information about additional tools, see the library’s Citation Manager Comparison.