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HI 2921: Mass Violence and Genocide - Prof. Emily Gioielli: Evaluating Sources

Source Types

Common source types for humanities research include:

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? 

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?

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 the content intended for a scholarly audience, for the general public, for school children, etc.? 

 

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 Sources for Credibility

A short video on evaluating sources from the NC State librarians.

Run-time: 3:14

Peer-Review

A short video on peer-review from the WPI librarians.

Run Time: 2:52

Key Student Learning Competencies:

  • What is Peer-Review? (0:10)
  • The Impact of Peer-Review Processes (0:50)
  • The Peer-Review Process (1:39)
  • Locating Peer-Reviewed Articles via the Gordon Library (2:25)

Source Evaluation Activity

Look at the following sources and consider these questions.

  1. Is this a primary source or a secondary source?
  2. How might you use this source as part of your research process? For example, would you use it to learn some background information on your topic? To find related sources? To support an argument in your paper?
  3. Would you cite this source in your paper?