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Using the following criteria, evaluate each of your sources while reflecting on your very specific research questions:
Consider the timeliness of the information.
When was the information published or produced? Has it been updated or revised in another source?
Does the topic require current information or will historical data be useful?
Does your assignment require sources published after a specific date?
Consider the importance of the information its compatibility with your research needs. You cannot evaluate for relevance without closely considering your research questions.
Is the information relevant to the specific topic and answer major questions about the topic?
What level of coverage does the source offer (comprehensive or selective)? Will you need to fill in gaps with other sources if the coverage is very specific?
What time period is covered (recent or historical)?
What geographic region is covered?
How “unique” is the information provided? (How does the coverage compare to other sources you have found? Does is simply duplicate what you have found in other sources or does it offer new information?)
Is the source appropriate for an academic paper on the subject? (Is it written at a level you can understand and that is appropriate for the intended audience of your paper or presentation?)
Is it written in English?
Consider the credibility of the information's source.
Who is responsible for the intellectual content? Consider authors, publishers, producers.
What are the author’s credentials?
Which credentials would you consider most valuable in judging expertise on this topic?
Have other scholars cited this work?
Consider the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content.
Is the information factually correct and reliable?
What are the author’s research methods?
Does the author provide supportive evidence (cite other research) and include notes, a bibliography, or a list of references?
Is proper grammar and spelling used?
Consider the reason(s) the information was created, produced, or shared.
For what purpose was the information written or provided? Is it to inform, explain or teach? Is it to report research findings? Is it to persuade or present opinions? Is it to simply entertain? Is someone trying to sell you something?
Do the authors / publishers make their intentions clear?
Who is the audience for the information provided? (Is it intended for a scholarly or popular audience?)
Questions to ask about the source (book, website, magazine, journal, or newspaper):
What is the purpose of the source? (Does it inform, persuade, present opinions, report research, or sell a product?
Who is the publisher of the source? (Is it an organization, association, or company?)
Who is the intended audience of the source? (Is it for the general population or for a select group of people?)
Where is it published? (Is it local, regional, national, or international?)
Questions to ask about a specific article or landing website:
Who is the author? (Is an author identified? Are any credentials listed? Is the author qualified to speak on this topic? What other topics has the author written about? Does the author belong to a partisan organization that may influence point of view?)
What is the purpose of the article? (Is it a review, commentary, editorial, informative article, research article, etc.?)
What kind of supporting material is offered? (Does the author quote research studies, statistics, or use personal anecdotes or experiences? Is logic applied when drawing conclusions? Are deceptive arguments used?)
What kind of language is used in the article? (Are inflammatory, loaded, or emotionally-charged words used?)
Citizen Source: Check out the listings of political journals and Think Tanks and Policy Institutes
AllSides: Follow the "News" or "Issues" sections to see how individual news stories and sources are rated on a range or liberal, center, or conservative.
Is it Scholarly?
When trying to determine if an article would be considered "scholarly," look at the following characteristics:
Length: The article is usually several pages long, and can, at times, be as long as 20 to 30 pages.
Author: There is always an author or group of authors listed. The author(s) usually have credentials or affiliations listed.
Audience: The intended audience is other experts, researchers, and students in the field.
Refereed: Articles may be “refereed,” or reviewed by peers prior to being accepted for publication.
Illustrations: The article may include maps, tables, and graphs that support the text. Colorful photographs are rarely used.
References: The article always includes citations to research discussed in the article in the form of footnotes, endnotes, or bibliographies.
Language: Look for vocabulary that would be used in the author’s field or discipline.
Format: The article follows a standardized format (APA, MLA, etc.).
Title: Keep in mind that not all scholarly journals have “Journal” in the title (although many do). Also, not every source that has “Journal” in the title is actually scholarly. (Example: Ladies Home Journal)
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