EVALUATION—Finding the best content possible in print or online
Ask two questions:
- Is the source credible in its own right?
- Is the source useful for my own paper topic?
- Credibility of the author (credentials include: degrees held; affiliation; prior publications)
- Credibility of a website (evaluation of a website includes: publisher’s information, whether a corporate entity or individual; maintenance date; link to the author/maintainer’s biographical information; domain; intended audience; references for sources of content)
- Accuracy of information
Question an author’s data gathering: What are the sources? Are sources easily identifiable using the references given? Is the information biased or outdated? Does age matter in relation to the topic?
If credible, is the source useful for my topic?
- Verifying primary sources
Have you found the origin of a primary source? (This is especially important when you are using information found online.)
- Is the level or type of information appropriate? (Topical encyclopedias provide helpful background information, and they may be included in your citations, but these are not central to your discussion at the senior seminar level.)
- Is the work a case study or quantitative or qualitative analysis? Be aware of these different types of research.
- Am I able to handle the material well? (Be aware of using material that you don’t understand completely. This may tempt you to use ideas that are not your own and lead to unintentional plagiarism.)
Evaluate as you search. Technology is fast and indiscriminate—it can pull in anything. Read abstracts and scan potentially helpful articles before you print them to avoid being overwhelmed by paper later on. At this point, think and make notes on how a source relates to your work.