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Getting Started: Evaluating Resources

Topic selection to information search

Peer Review

Your professor may require you to use peer reviewed journal articles. Prior to publishing a book or article that is considered scholarly, the research needs to be reviewed by one or more experts in the field. They may recommend it be published, give suggestions to strengthen the piece or recommend that it not be published. You can limit your search to peer reviewed journals by checking off a box in most library databases.

Analyzing Periodicals

Is there such thing as unbiased writing?

What methods can you use to investigate authors, periodicals or publishers?

Journalists are asked to answer these questions when writing an article:
Who, What, Where, When, Why and So What.

We can ask the same questions about the magazines, newspaper and journals that they publish in.

Who is the editor?
The board?
The contributors?
The subjects of their investigations?

What is their
political,
cultural,
academic,
generational perspective?

Where is the periodical published?
What area does it cover?

When was founded?
How often is it published?

Why: Do they have a mission statement on the masthead, or the official website?
Can you find anything written about the periodical or its editor on the web or in other periodicals?

So what:  Would you need to find an opposing viewpoint to balance an article found in this periodical?
What other periodical would have the opposing viewpoint?
Can you use a reference or circulating book to find a wider range of opinion or perspective?
Are these books also pushing an agenda?

Places to find information on a periodical:

Corporate website (Google it, or find the website in the paper copy)

Database website (put periodical title in our catalog search box and follow the hyperlink to the periodical in a database)

Paper copy of periodical has information on the table of contents page or masthead

Investigate the author in a large database like ProQuest or Academic Research Premier as 'person' in the drop down box and as an 'author' to see what else they have written.

Investigate the author or the editor in Google, Google Scholar, or Wikipedia to get a quick idea of their standing in the community.

The main thing is to bring your critical thinking skills with you when you are investigating sources for your research paper.

Primary and Secondary sources

A primary source is an original document containing firsthand information about a topic. Common examples of a primary source are diaries, interviews, letters, photographs and newspaper articles written at the time of the event.

A secondary source contains commentary on or discussion about a primary source. The most important feature of secondary sources is that they offer an interpretation of information gathered from primary sources. Common examples of a secondary source are  biographies, dissertations, journal articles, monographs, an encyclopedia entry and  textbooks.

For example: When writing about a philosophical treatise you would want to read the original text (Primary Document),  then read what experts in field have written about it (Secondary Documents) and develop your own analysis.

Evaluating Websites

When evaluating websites, notice which domain the URL is registered in.

.com is for commercial purposes

.edu is from a college or university

.gov sites are from U.S.government agencies

.ca.gov is written by California state agencies

.org was intended for non-profits, but it is not enforced

.mil is written by the U.S. military

.net is a general URL

Also, think about why the information was posted on the web, is it to make money, or persuade people to a particular opinion?  The purpose may not be obvious. You may want to investigate the person or organization that published the site. Look for an “About us” link.  What else have they done? Don't be dazzled by a pretty site. Look for up to date information brought to you by a person or organization with credentials in the subject. Also, apply guidelines offered in the "Evaluation Guides" box.

Evaluation Guides

Differences between Magazines and Journals