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PSU 016: First Year Seminar in Statistics with Matt Beckman

Library events and resources to support first year seminar in the Statistics department at University Park


Welcome to Penn State!  This guide is intended to help students in First Year Seminar - Statistics (PSU 016, section 550) discover all the Penn State University Libraries have to offer.  We have textbooks, study space, group rooms, and new technologies to help you succeed in your classes.  I hope you have a chance to visit the Physical and Mathematical Sciences (PAMS) Library during our Open House.  You can also visit the Statistics Research Guide for online sources of books, research articles, and career information.

LionSearch Scholarly Articles

Citing Your Sources

When using information from another source you must give credit to the original author or you are plagiarizing. You give credit by citing the source. Make sure your citation contains everything you would need to backtrack and find the information again. It is best to pick one citation style and be consistent. 


How to evaluate information sources on the web

How can you trust information you find on the Internet?  Where can you find an answer that is detailed enough to be useful, but not too complex for you to understand?  Since anyone can publish information instantly on the World Wide Web distinguishing quality information can be very difficult.  Before the coming of the information age, there were only a few options for research – books, magazines, and scholarly journals.

Scholarly journals (also called academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed journals) are the traditional method of communicating new scientific discoveries.  Authors generally submit their articles to several other scientists for review and comment, and these reviewers must approve the article before it is published.  Since the audience is other scientists, the language used is highly technical and specific to the field.  Scholarly journals are one type of primary source for research.

Primary sources are newly created or recorded knowledge by a scientist or researcher.  These can be scholarly journal articles, scientific reports or even an in-person presentation.  Secondary sources review, discuss, or analyze primary sources and are written later.  Some examples of secondary sources are encyclopedia articles, science news reports, and most books.

Both types of information sources may have citations, references to earlier research.  Citations in a primary source are an acknowledgement of previous research and give a link between earlier knowledge and the current study.  Citations in a secondary source indicate where the author got the information they used to write their review of the topic.

Example of Statistics on the Web

One example of a secondary source is the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.  There are many entries on mathematical topics such as the Monty Hall Problem.  Each of these articles was written by many people, but they used primary sources to write it.  You can find the source material used to write these articles in the References section of the article (see: Monty Hall Problem References).  For each of these reference you can ask 4 questions to determine the quality and usefulness of each source.

  1. Authority – who is the author and what is their level of expertise
  2. Audience – who is the article written for and at what level is the article written
  3. Currency – how recent is the article and does that matter
  4. Content – could you understand and use the article for a paper in this class

Let's look at 3 of these references and evaluate them.

1. Adams, Cecil (2 November 1990). "On 'Let's Make a Deal,' you pick door #1. Monty opens door #2 – no prize. Do you stay with door #1 or switch to #3?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 25 July 2005.

  1. Authority - A newspaper advice columnist with no expertise in mathematics
  2. Audience - General audience of all newspaper readers
  3. Currency - Over 25 years old, but mathematical solutions hold true until disproved
  4. Content - Very basic, and initially wrong in the explanation

2. Barbeau, Edward (1993). "Fallacies, Flaws, and Flimflam: The Problem of the Car and Goats". The College Mathematics Journal. 24 (2): 149–154.

  1. Authority - A math professor, expert in the field
  2. Audience - College Mathematics Journal is intended for college and university students and professors
  3. Currency - Over 20 years old, so some of the examples may not be easy to understand
  4. Content - Quite short with only a few explanations and other examples

3. Behrends, Ehrhard (2008). Five-Minute Mathematics. AMS Bookstore. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-8218-4348-2.

  1. Authority - A German mathematician, the book was translated into English
  2. Audience - The math used to solve the problem has basic (Conditional probablity) and advanced (Bayes) levels
  3. Currency - Originally published in 2006, so only about 10 years old
  4. Content - Provides 4 different solutions to the problem using probability

Which would you consider the BEST help for you?