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Reading Critically and Evaluating Sources

Learn how to critically read and evaluate the sources you would like to use in your research.

What to look for in a source:

Author

  • What are the author's credentials?
    • Where do they work?
    • What education do they have?
    • Have they written about this topic before?

Date of Publication 

  • Is this information recent?
  • Has any new information been published more recently?

Edition 

  • Are there newer editions of this source? (this is very important for textbooks)
  • What revisions or changes have been made in the newer editions?

Publisher 

  • If the source is published by a university press (e.g. Cambridge University Press; Oxford University Press) then the source is most likely scholarly.
  • Sources published by academic journals usually have to undergo a rigorous peer review process before publication.

Type of Periodical 

  • The type of periodical that a source is published in affects the editing and review process the source undergoes prior to publication:
    • Academic articles are peer reviewed before publication.
    • Newspapers, popular magazines, and trade magazines undergo less rigorous review processes.

What to look for in the content:

Intended Audience 

  • Who is the intended audience of the source?
    • Is it aimed at a general or specialized audience?
      • This will affect the level of complexity in the writing, research, and analysis.

Bias or "Spin" 

  • Is the information in the source fact, opinion, or propaganda
    • Can you verify or corroborate the information? 
  • Is bias clearly stated or acknowledged? This is common practice in most original research articles.

Writing Style 

  • Is the source clearly and skillfully written?
  • Does the research follow a logical progression? 
    • Are the arguments clear?
    • Do the conclusions make sense with the results presented?
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