6: How do you find reliable research?
The chapter starts by exploring research sources of information with low reliability, such as Wikipedia and social media, and other research sources with limited value. Moving to more reliable research outlets, a box identifies the characteristics of reputable sources, and the chapter outlines an ABCDE source reliability test for sources (Authenticity, Bias, Credibility, Depth, and Evidence). The chapter then provides a guide to efficiently reading academic articles, before listing five useful websites for research studies.
Glossary terms in this chapter
Natural police: Natural police seems to involve officers who display a combination of intelligence, curiosity, empathy, tenacity, and related policing skills. (as discussed in Reducing Crime: A Companion for Police Leaders)
Academic literature: Academic literature is scholarly work written by specialists in the discipline and published in academic journals that use peer review to screen the quality of articles.
Authenticity: Authenticity refers to the need to confirm that the authorship of an article is clear, and that the author is who they say they are. (ABCDE checklist)
Bias: Bias is an inclination to favor a group, thing, or idea. It can manifest in a tendency for a person’s beliefs or ideological perspective to shape their research and writing. (ABCDE checklist)
Credibility: Credibility refers to the trustworthiness and reputation of the source to write or create the material. (ABCDE checklist)
Depth: Depth refers to whether an article conveys the nuance and complexity of an issue. (ABCDE checklist)
Evidence: Evidence refers—in terms of understanding and reading newspaper articles or grey literature—to the writer being clear about their sources and methods. (ABCDE checklist)
Predatory journals: What appear to be scholarly journals that, in reality, prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.
Additional information and links
What makes a source reliable?
Chapter 6 of EBP: The Basics discussed the decline in the perceived quality of journalism over the last half century. Box 6-1 has a list of characteristics of reputable sources, and in support of this Allsides.com has an extremely in-depth page that details the political leanings of most new sites publicly available. While there is a link to a database of over 800 sources, for the main 'featured' sources, what is noticeable is the scarcity of news sites that do not have perceived political bias. The lack of centrist news agencies should be a concern.
If you wish a more concise perspective on this, Pew research group has an illustrative graph that shows where people of various political persuasions get their news.
In general, the Wall Street Journal and the BBC are viewed as non-partisan centrist news sources, while NPR and PBS are viewed as almost center, with the caveat that conservatives are less trustful of those sources. USA Today, New York Times, and the Washington Post are viewed as being on the political left, while Fox News is considered well to the right.
Citing academic research in your writing
Box 6‑2 has a quick note on citing library sources when the original material is a website. On a broader note, Purdue University's writing lab has a useful series of pages that detail how to cite literature in APA style (the most common format in college writing). Use the menu on the left of the Purdue page to learn how to cite different types of scholarly literature. Once again though, note that if you use a library website to access a book, book chapter, or journal article, DO NOT cite the web reference but instead cite the original book, book chapter, or journal article as if you had gone to the library and retrieved them in person.
The dangers of predatory journals
Predatory journals have now been described as a global threat in this interesting and current read from Nature - which is most definitely not a predatory journal.
Websites with research summaries
As soon as the book EBP: The Basics is published, the following websites cited in the book are bound to change their URLs. It feels almost inevitable. So if that happens, I will update the URL web sites here. See the book for details of all of the following websites.
The UK College of Policing Crime Reduction Toolkit
The Campbell Collaboration
The Center for Problem-Oriented Policing
The Evidence-Based Policing Matrix
Other scholarly literature websites
Other useful websites for academic research (but that did not make it into a short introduction book) that you can use to access scholarly literature include the following:
The Global Policing Database (at the University of Queensland)
Google Scholar (you could start at the list of self-described policing scholars and search their profiles)
Reducing Crime podcast episode
The chapter includes a discussion of accessing academic and scholarly literature as a way to start getting a handle on crime or policing problems. As such, this conversation with Geoff Barnes - over breakfast in a South Philadelphia diner - is relevant because we spent some time talking about literature reviews and how to study the academic research.
At the time of the discussion, Geoff Barnes was the Director of Criminology for the Western Australia Police Force. He is now involved in research with the Metropolitan Police in London. He has also worked in the US and at Cambridge University. We talk about how not to do a literature review, the relationship between opinion-based policing and shoulder jewelry, and one way a police chief can make a huge difference in policing in just 90 seconds a year.