There are many sources that can be used for a scientific article, an academic paper, or a research report: peer-reviewed scientific articles, research reports, briefs submitted to a hearing (e.g. to the Bureau des audiences publiques en Environnement – Québec), documents on an Internet site, news articles and encyclopedias. With the advent of electronics, we can also add interest groups (Listserv), newsgroups, e-mail, databases, FTP archives, and CD-ROMs.
You must remain vigilant about the scientific validity of your references. In the case of peer-reviewed articles (scientific publications), a committee has done some of the work for you; however, be on the lookout, as a published article may have methodological or interpretive flaws that were not picked up by the reviewers or the editor. Often, the name and reputation of the publishing journal is also important.
In other cases, you must judge the credibility of the source. For example, journal articles cannot be used to prove a point you are making, but they can support the presentation of the issue, especially in the case of an analytical article.
However, this type of source should be avoided in the case of a scientific article; you should go back to the source of the journalist’s information. As far as the Internet is concerned, you can find the best and the worst, as well as the insignificant and the grandiose. If you are looking for information to write an academic paper, chances are that with more or less effort you will find it on the Internet. Anyone, individual, group, or institution can publish on the Internet. However, one must be careful because many Internet sites, unlike scientific electronic journals such as VertigO, Développement Durable et Territoires, Ecology, and Society, do not necessarily have a reading committee, a publication director, or reviewers to make the selection. This means that one can find reliable information and misinformation.
Thus, from the same keyword, you will find yourself facing documents of very different statuses. In addition, the information may be outdated if the site has not been updated for many years. In the same vein, if you decide to refer to it, don’t forget that information on the Internet is fluctuating and mobile. Indeed, a site can disappear or change its Internet address.
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