Recognizing relevant information is a key skill in working life, based on the ability to evaluate information. Understanding the differences between general, professional, and scientific information are part of this ability. A skilled information user is able to identify different levels of information and to use information sources both diversely and purposefully.
Why should we practice information searching?
We live in the middle of an information flood. The ability to filter information is an integral part of search skills: you have to be able to tell the difference between reliable and unreliable, essential and non-essential.
Visiting an unfamiliar town, I want to locate a certain store. There is only half an hour until closing time. I Google the store location and start walking towards it. Once I get there, I learn that the store has relocated a year earlier. I find the correct address on the map and realize the store has just closed.
What went wrong? I settled for the first link listed on Google search results. It was not the store homepage, but a commercial online service where information is being provided by the page users and administrators. Anyone can edit or add information. The sources are hardly checked and the service does not take any responsibility for the information accuracy nor user malpractice.
Not a very reliable source, then.
When searching for information for your studies, Google is rather a poor tool for it provides you with a lot of irrelevant information. Use Google Scholar instead, especially since you can also access HAMK e-collections with Scholar. For more information on alternative information sources, see chapter Where?
Different levels of expertise
With thesis or other expository text, you can use varied sources: books, scientific articles, feature articles, blog postings. You can utilize publication channel types to determine the reliability of your source: for instance, a scientific journal is more reliable than a newspaper. Also check the publication for commercial, political, or other affiliations that may affect the reliability of your source.
You can also judge source reliability by checking whose voice or views get portrayed. Is he an expert? There are different kinds of experts. As an example, let us look at the back problems of hockey players.
Back pain in ice-hockey players.pdf
All above mentioned information sources can be useful, but you have to know how to use them in the right way.
Scientific expert provides you with background information that places a phenomenon in a larger scale. This is generally referred to as the current truth.
Scientific research information can be supplemented by a professional expert who can provide applied or empirical information the scientist may lack.
The story of an experience expert can be used as an example or a conversation piece, but it is only the subjective experience of one person and cannot be generalized as truth.
Be open about your sources
The theoretical basis of your thesis should be based on research. If it is not available, you have to use other sources to show your familiarity with the topic. You are expected to use scientific information and to cite them according to HAMK reference practice, e.g.
As many as 80 percent of the players in Finnish hockey league have reported suffering from back pain (Kiekkonen 2016, 36).
When citing other types of sources, it could be useful to mention the source type. That way you can for instance avoid citing a blog post as a scientific source. Can you tell the difference between the following examples?
According to Mailanen (2016) back pain is common among ice hockey players.
Ice-hockey player Teemu Mailanen tells in his blog that back pain is common among hockey players (2016).
In the first example, a simple blog post gives the appearance of a research article. The second example is open about the type of the source in question.
Using your sources correctly requires the ability to evaluate both their reliability and significance.