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Global Energy Management on Coursera: Home

A research guide for students of "Fundamentals of Global Energy Business" and "Electric Utilities Fundamentals and Future" (MOOCs from the University of Colorado Denver)



1. Search one or more of the "Information Resources" on this page (see the box to the right of this one).  These can be used to research many topics, not just those related to energy and/or utilities.

2. Use the tabs on the top of the page.  Information on energy is available from a variety of sources (i.e. public, private, national, international, etc).  Some of the tabs at the top of the page  (such as Government, Colleges/Universities, Industry and others ) will give you information from those different sources.  Other tabs (Utilities, Oil Production Economics, etc.) will provide you with information on specific aspects of energy production and distribution.  There will be several websites to search under each tab. 

3. Search the Internet!  However, selecting the best internet resources to support your research involves more than finding good content. There are several other factors you must also consider to make sure a resource is reliable and appropriate for your needs.

The box on the right-hand side of this page ("The Six Steps") will explain the main criteria by which to evaluate internet resources and will help you look at potential sources more critically. Although the focus here is on evaluating internet sites, these criteria can apply to books, magazines and other sources.

Information Resources

Six Steps for Evaluating Internet Resources

1. Purpose & Audience

Purpose and Audience are concerned with matching people with the right information for them. Most writing is initially aimed at a particular audience or has a purpose. The purpose, bias or audience need not be stated, but inferred by the reader. Ask yourself:

  • Is the information presented indended to inform, persuade, present opinions, report research, or sell a product?
  • For what audience is it intended? The general public, professionals, students.
  • Is it popular or scholarly?
  • Does it show any bias?

It is a good idea to consider these questions when evaulating a resources for purpose and audience. Just because a website is aimed at consumers, doesn't mean it can't be used as a source in a research paper. You just need to consider that fact when deciding what appropriate role, if any, it can play in your research.

How can I find out?

Determine whether the Web site is produced by an organization and if so, the purpose or mission of that organization. You can usually determine by careful reading if the purpose is to sell a product or promote a particular point of view.

2. Authority

Authority is concerned with how knowledgeable an author is on the particular subject he or she is writing about. Some questions to ask to determine whether your source is authoritative are:

  • What are the author's credentials?
  • Does the author have expertise on the subject?
  • What degree(s) does the author hold? From what college or university?
  • Is the author a member of professional organizations?
  • Are they affiliated with any of the following: a university or college, government agency, publisher or press, or their own company?

Look at the source to see if it tells you anything about the author's credentials. Much of this information should be listed or a contact number supplied.

Many Internet sources do not give the identity or credentials of the author or producer. These Web sites may have questionable reliability.

3. Documentation

Documentation is concerned with how traceable a source's information is. Can you find the origin of the facts presented in your source? Ask yourself:

  • Does the author refer to other works?
  • Does the Web page provide related links?
  • Is a bibliography provided?
  • Does the author support statements with data or references?

In many publications, adequate documentation is not provided. The popular press rarely provides complete references where one could find further information. Internet sites may be even more guilty of this. If your source has no listed sources of its own, it may be a sign that the information is made up or incorrect.

4. Timeliness

Timelines is concerned with how current a source is. Ask yourself:

  • When was the information published?
  • When was the website last updated?

An older site may no longer be maintained and contain dated information and bad links. In areas such as medicine, science, business, and technology, currency of information is important. In fields such as history and literature, currency may not be critical.

5. Review Process

Scholarly publications, even those published on the Web, are typically peer reviewed. Experts in the area first determine the credibility of the findings or writing before it can be published. The process is rigorous. Most popular publications are not peer reviewed.

  • Was there any review process at all?
  • Was it critically reviewed after it was written?

Many Internet sources are not reviewed before being posted; however, most government, educational, and organizational sites have some sort of review process. If no review process is stated or evident, assume there is none. Journals, both online and print, almost always state their review process.

6. Suitability

Suitability is concerned with being the right information for your needs. To determine whether a source is suitable, ask yourself:

  • Does the source contain the information you need?
  • Is it written at a level you can understand?

Read the source. Does the information have a place within your topic and organizational outline? Assess the topic and the audience that it is aimed at to make sure the purpose and audience are appropriate.