For any given research topic, there are numerous potential sources of information. When evaluating the quality of different types of resources, think about the different perspectives, voices and types of resources you could include in your final research project. This will help to determine the level of analysis and depth of understanding you could expect to achieve in relation to your selected topic. Thinking on this level will help you to generate more texture in your project too — combining different perspectives, voices, and types of material (including images, information from academic, journalistic, and other literary sources), will make your project more interesting for you and your audience. These questions may help you to identify different perspectives and voices:
1. Who is the author? What is her or his point of view? Why do you trust or distrust this point of view?
2. In your sources, where are the indigenous voices?
3. Where are the voices of scholars and other analysts?
4. Often information on a topic is a conversation of many voices — which voices should be part of your conversation? Are they all represented in your sources of information?
As a first step in Pacific Islands research, WIkipedia can at times be very useful. However, Wikipedia itself notes that, "Wikipedia is not considered to be a reliable source as not everything in Wikipedia is accurate, comprehensive, or unbiased." Because of this, it is important to consider Wikipedia as an entry point to information on a subject, but not the actual source of information on a subject. If the source of a piece of information in a WIkipedia entry is not fully and clearly cited, it cannot be trusted as accurate. If a piece of information is cited, you must always go to that original source to a) ensure that the information has been fully and correctly presented in the Wikipedia article and b) that the original source of the information is itself "authoritative" -- that is, that the original source of the information can be trusted to be accurate and unbiased, or is presented in such a way that it can clearly be identified as inaccurate or biased. Sometimes, an author may be purposely including something that is inaccurate, false or biased as part of a larger discussion of a topic; if only that one portion of the argument is quoted in a second source (like Wikipedia), or if the information is taken out of context, it may take on a meaning that the author never intended. In short, Wikipedia can be a useful first step in your research, but it should never be your last (or only) step. (Click here for more detailed information on using Wikipedia as a research tool.)
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