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HU 2900: HUA Project Center Preparation: London: Evaluate Sources

Evaluation is a Process

Questions to Ask When Evaluating the Sources You Find:

The 5 Ws 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?

Is the publisher focused on publishing academic works or are they focused on publishing works for a more general audience?

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?

Is the source appropriate for the type of research you are doing?

Is it relevant to your research?

When?

When was this source published? 

Is the publication date appropriate for the type of research you are doing?

Where?

Where did the authors get their information from? Are citations provided?

Did the authors cite sources that are credible? 

Why?

What was the goal of the author or publisher?

Who is the intended audience?

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?

Is this source intended for a scholarly audience or for the general public?

Many of these questions will NOT (a) be easy to find answers to and (b) tell you that the source you are reading is 100% credible, but they are still important to ask. Digging into a source itself and finding out more about it is part of the research process.

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 using a variety of search tools and looking for different points of view? 

Evaluating Books

When you find a book for your research, look at the publisher. Is the publisher an academic press or a university press? Or are they publishing books aimed at a more general audience? 

Then look at the author - what are their qualifications?

Then look at the publication date - is the publication date appropriate for the type of research you are doing?

Are citations provided to show where the authors got their information from?

What do reviewers say about this book?

Evaluating Sources for Credibility

Here is a short video from the N.C. State librarians:

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.

Peer-reviewed articles are typically substantial in length, often 10 or more pages. Peer-reviewed articles should have many citations telling the reader where the authors got their information from.

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.