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COM 221 (Koller) - Analytical Report - Ethics

This guide will help you find resources for your analytical report.

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources are immediate, first-hand accounts of a topic, from people who had a direct connection with it. Primary sources can include:

  • Texts of laws and other original documents
  • Newspaper reports, by reporters who witnessed an event or who quote people who did
  • Speeches, diaries, letters and interviews - what the people involved said or wrote
  • Original research
  • Datasets, survey data, raw data, etc. such as census or economic statistics
  • Photographs, video, or audio that capture an event

Secondary Sources are one step removed from primary sources, though they often quote or otherwise use primary sources. They can cover the same topic, but add a layer of interpretation and analysis. Secondary sources can include:

  • Most books about a topic
  • Analysis or interpretation of data
  • Scholarly or other articles about a topic, especially by people not directly involved
  • Documentaries (though they often include photos or video portions that can be considered primary sources)

Adapted from Primary Sources: A Research Guide by the Healey Library, University of Massachusetts Boston

Evaluating Criteria

Purpose: What is the purpose of the publication? Is it to inform or persuade? Is it biased? Does it provide more than one point of view? Does a bias diminish the usability or credibility?

Author: Are the author’s credentials, such as educational background, occupation, affiliation or position listed? Many resources do not have one author as they are published by a group of authors, an organization or even a government body. If so, are they or the entity they represent specialists in the subject area?

Audience: Who is the targeted audience? Is it the general public, academic community, scientific community or is it specialists in a particular field?

Language: Is the language scholarly or general? Is it geared toward the layperson or someone with knowledge in the field? Does it include terminology or acronyms specific to an industry?

Documentation: Does the work include bibliographies or references, charts, graphs or other evidence that supports the research presented?

Currency: Is it important that your sources include the latest findings or does your topic permit or require historical research?

Evaluating Websites

Look for the purpose of the website. Is it to explain, inform, entertain, advertise, advocate, deceive or even joke? Is there an about section or mission statement? Can you determine the intended audience?




Determining Authenticity by Author

Look for the author or sponsoring entity (person, group or organization). Is the author or sponsoring entity clearly identified? Are credentials listed which validate the author’s expertise?

Look for the top-level domain (the last part of the URL) for a hint about who is publishing the website. The domain creates distinctions between types of websites. They do not, however, assure reliability and credibility.

Examples of Internet top-level domains:

  • = government, U.S. Federal Government agency
  • = educational, such as colleges and universities
  • = commercial company, usually for-profit
  • = organizations, often non-profit 
  • = military
  • ~  =(tilde) a personal site

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