HI 1314: Introduction to Early American History

Professor Steven C Bullock

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Evaluation is a Process

The Important Questions of Evaluation: Digging Into Your Sources (3 Levels)

The 5 Ws (and one H) The Surface-Level Questions The Deeper Questions

 

Who?

Who is the author, editor, or creator? Is the author qualified to write about this topic? 

Who is the publisher?

What makes them qualified? First-hand experience? An advanced degree?

 

What?

What type of document is it? For example, is it a newspaper article? A blog? A government website? A scholarly article? A book?  

What is it about?

There is no 'bad' type of document, but some have gone through a more rigorous review process than others.

 

When?

When was this source published? Is the publication date appropriate for your research? 

The 'up-to-date'-ness of a source matters more for some research questions than others. 

 

Where?

Where was the source published? For example, in a scholarly journal? An encyclopedia? A magazine?

Where did you find the source?

Be strategic about where you look for information. Which search tool, database, or website is most likely to have the kind of information you need. 

 

Why?

What was the goal of the author or publisher? Is there bias? 

Bias does not necessarily negate credibility. We all have biases. The question then becomes: are those biases disclosed? Do they impact the quality of the information?

 

How?

How did the author(s) gather data and information? Did they include citations? Did they derive reasonable conclusions from the research?

Did the author(s) only cite themselves/their associates? How well did they explain their process? Was their work reviewed by anyone else?

 

These questions are designed to help you evaluate the sources you find. You may not find the answer to all of the questions, and there is no perfect way to determine if a source is “good” or bad,” but you always want to consider if a source is appropriate for the kind of research you are doing.

Evaluating sources is an ongoing activity you will do throughout your research, and it includes evaluation of your own search process. As you search, pay attention to the keywords and phrases you are using. Are you looking for information that will only confirm what you already suspect, or are you looking for possibly contradictory or opposing information as well? Do you have any 'go-to' sources that you use to find information? Are you looking in too narrow or too broad an area for information? 

Peer-Reviewed Journals

Peer-Review Definition

Peer-review: "A process by which a scholarly work (such as a paper or a research proposal) is checked by a group of experts in the same field to make sure it meets the necessary standards before it is published or accepted."

  - Merriam Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/peer%20review 

What are "peer-reviewed" journals?

A peer-reviewed journal is a respected academic publication. Before articles are published within these types of journals, they are sent by the editors of the journal to other scholars in the field ("peers"), often anonymously, to get feedback on the quality of the scholarship, review research methods, as well as relevance or importance to the field. The article may be accepted, often with revisions suggested, or rejected for publication.  

Peer-reviewed journals are highly respected, and researchers wish to have their works published in them. Many often have low acceptance rates.

One way to find peer reviewed articles is to type your keywords into WPI Library Search, and then choose the filter for Peer-reviewed Journals. You can also search our Databases (organized by subject) for peer-reviewed articles.