Student Dialog - Refining Your Process
Brian: All right, I was just checking my schedule and I need to get going. So, are we about finished?
Deena: Yeah, I think we've just about covered everything.
Brian: Great! Then I'm leaving.
Deena: Not so fast, Brian. I want to make sure we're all going to use what we've talked about. I think we can refine those preliminary evaluation processes a little. You remember, currency, relevancy, clarity, and authority.
Brian: Yeah, I remember those.
Once you have done a preliminary search, how do you decide what sources, references, citations, etc. do you use? You should examine carefully the content of your sources. If your source is a book, read the preface and introduction in order to analyze the intentions of the author or authors. Check out the index and table of contents to get a sense or overview of what the book covers. Determine if there are chapters that speak directly to your research interest. If the source is a journal, read the abstract or editor's comments.
Remember the categories of Currency, Relevancy, Clarity, and Authority from your preliminary evaluation process? Refining that process leads to a more effective evaluation of potential sources for use in your research. You should develop your own guidelines that work for you as you proceed through higher education, but here are some additional questions that will help you practice evaluating your sources.
- Is the information in the source current and well researched?
- Are there omissions of certain aspects of your topic such as conflicting points of view?
- Is the coverage of your topic comprehensive?
- Is the source correct for contemporary contexts (Some topics require more currency than others.)?
- Consider the audience of the author. Is the publication aimed at experts, professionals, specialists, or a general audience?
- Does the source cover your topic in depth or marginally?
- Does the source present new information or a different (but supported) point of view?
- Does the text cite the sources it uses in the form of footnotes, references, and bibliographies?
- Is the book, article, or journal organized in a logical fashion?
- Is the content presented clearly and logically?
- Are arguments clear and supported or are they contradictory?
- Is the text reasonably easy for you to read?
- Is this source sophisticated enough for your needs or is it overly technical, too advanced, or too elementary?
- Are there grammatical errors, typographical errors, or misspellings?
- What do you know about the author's credentials, organizations, or affiliations?
- Is this author cited in texts you are currently reading?
- Are there reviews of this book or source? Are reviews negative, positive, or mixed?
- Do the findings of this source corroborate the findings of other credible sources?
- Is the language sober and factual, or glossy, emotional, and inflammatory?
- Are there vague generalizations or sweeping statements made by the author(s)?
- If the source is a journal, is it peer-reviewed (also known as refereed, this means that articles published in the journal have been reviewed and judged acceptable by other experts in the field)?