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SOWK 534/535: Home

Resources to help students find information about policy, advocacy research, and statistics and demographics.


Look for information from a reliable source. A reliable source can come from a scholarly source, like a journal article or encyclopedia, or it can come from a popular source, like a newspaper or government report. Use the videos and images below, and the tabs on top, to help you identify reliable sources of information.

In general, you'll want to use a popular source for your "who, what, where, when" questions. Use popular sources like newspaper or government documents (including Census data!) to get information about your communities. An example of question that can be answered with a reliable popular source is "How many Latinos in my neighborhood graduate from high school?"

You'll want to use a scholarly source for your "how" or "so what" questions. Use a scholarly source like a journal article to get information about why certain characteristics of your community impact other characteristics. An example of a question that can be answered with a scholarly source is "How does low graduation rates affect economic development?"


When looking for information for your paper, especially if you're looking for demographic or statistics data, ask the following questions:

  • Who wrote or produced the information? Usually, only government agencies and non-profit agencies produce statistical or demographic data, so if you're not at a government or non-profit website, look to see where the data is coming from. If you can't tell, find a better source!
  • Does your information source provide references or citations? Even newspaper articles will tell you the source of the information - usually with a phrase like "According to...". If you're at a source that doesn't cite where the information is from, find a better source!
  • Where does it make the most sense to find this information? Looking for crime data? Check the local police department. Looking for graduation rates? Check the local school district. Looking for a definition of a word or concept? Check an encyclopedia written by an expert in that field.

Complete the Evaluating Sources tutorial for even more help identifying reliable sources!

Library Research Workshop

VAC Librarian

Rebecca Halpern
City Center #1432