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Psychology Research: Evaluating Information

A guide to research resources in psychology.

Reading Research Articles

Research or scholarly articles have a formal structure that allows you to focus your attention to specific sections to get a good sense of the purpose and results of the study without being buried in too much technical detail. Follow the tips below to read the research articles that you find to see if they are relevant to your topic.

Tip 1: Do not read the article from start to finish as you would a popular article.

Tip 2: Do focus your attention on the following sections in order:

Abstract

  • This section provides you an overview of the study.
  • It will give you a sense of the purpose and some of the results. 

Introduction

  • On your first reading, skim the introduction to get a sense of the purpose of the study.
  • If the study is important to your research, re-read the introduction / literature review to find other articles and studies that may be helpful

Discussion / Results

  • Carefully read this section as it explains what was found as a result of the study.
  • If the study is relevant to your research and the findings are of interest, you may need to go back and carefully read the methodology to understand how the results were gathered.

Criteria for Evaluating Information

Use the following criteria to evaluate the information resources you use in your research:

Currency: The timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or too out-of-date for my topic?
  • Are all the links functional or are there dead links?

Relevance: The importance of the information for your needs.

  • Does the information relate to my topic or answer my question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too simple or advanced) for my needs?
  • Did I look at a variety of sources before deciding to use this one?
  • Would I be comfortable using this source for my college research paper?

Authority: The source of the information.

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source? Examples: .com .edu .gov .org .net.

Accuracy: The reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information.

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed by anyone else?
  • Can I verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased? Or is it free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, typographical, or other errors?

Purpose: The reason the information exists.

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Source: Evaluating Information, University Libraries, University of Rhode Island, http://uri.libguides.com/evalinfo