SOWK 506: Human Behavior and the Social Environment: Evaluating Information Resources

Research guide for students in SOWK 506. The person-in-environment, bio-psycho-social perspective is the lens through which theories of personality, family, group, organization, community, culture and their interactions are explored.

Understanding the Information Cycle

Understanding the information cycle will help you to better know what information is available on your topic and better evaluate information sources covering that topic. View the short video below from USC Libraries to learn more about how information is distributed, shared, and changes over time. 

Evaluating Popular or Web-Based Sources

When finding non-scholarly resources, ask yourself the following questions to determine if they are appropriate to use:

Currency: Is this source up-to-date? Might there be newer sources that contradict, expand, or support this source?

Relevancy: Is this source relevant to my topic or question?

Accuracy: Is this source accurate? Does its logic make sense to me? Are there any internal contradictions? Does it link or refer to its sources?

Authority: Who created or authored this source? Could the author or creator bring any biases to the information presented? Is the author or creator a reputable or well-respected agent in the subject area?

Purpose: Is this source intended to educate, inform, or sell? What is the purpose of this source?

Tips for Sorting Google Results

Google can be a powerful research tool that helps you find policy and legislative data, statistics, policy reports, and more. The trick is knowing how to get Google to find the good stuff for you.

Know your domains:

The end of a web address (URL), after the dot, is the domain. For example,, edu is the domain. You can use domains to filter out your Google results. 

Common domains are:

edu -- educational sites

org -- non-profit sites

gov -- government sites

Google domain filtering:

Add the words "" (or org/edu/com/etc.) to the end of your Google search. Use a semicolon to separate domains.

The search below is asking Google to find sources about HIV infections in Los Angeles, and limiting my results to websites that end in .gov or .org -- in other words, I only want results from government or non-profit organizations.