Eventually, you'll come to a place in your research where you feel overloaded with sources. Oh, you're already there? Perfect! This is actually the place you want to be. When it comes to a reseach project, it's better to have too much than too little. At this stage in your project, you'll now want to take a hard look at your sources and decide what should stay and what should go. How do you choose? There are many factors to take into account when evaluating your sources: relevancy, author bias, publication date, level of scholarlship, type of source, etc. We'll explore all of these options below.
In the course of your research, you'll run into a variety of sources; which are divided up into roughly two catagories:
magazine and newspaper articles
books, other than fiction and autobiography
Primary sources are taken at face value, but you'll have to look at your secondary sources with a critical eye!
The CRAAP test was originally developed to help researchers evaluate web sources, but the criteria work equally well for both print and electronic materials:
The timeliness of the information.
The depth and importance of the information.
The source of the information.
The reliability of the information.
The possible bias present in the information.
For each item you have found, judge it using the above criteria. And ask yourself: Who wrote it? Does the author have any biases? What is the tone? Does the work cite other sources? How old is this material?
*the CRAAP test was developed at the Meriam Library at California State University Chico
You may come across a research assignment that restricts the sources that you may use to only scholarly and/or peer reviewed sources. The terms are used almost interchangeably in an academic setting, but here are the basic definitions:
Scholarly sources: Articles or books that are written by a scholar or a professional in the field and are often used to report original research or experimentation; usually includes specialized vocabulary and are aimed at an academic audience.
Peer Reviewed sources: Many scholarly journals use a process of peer review prior to publishing an article, whereby other scholars or experts in the author's field or specialty critically assess a draft of the article. This process helps ensure that the published articles reflect solid scholarship in their fields. Peer-reviewed journals are also called refereed journals
How can you tell if if a particular article is peer-reviewed? Often the website of the journal in which it was published will tell you if it is a peer reviewed journal or not, or you can use Ulrich's Periodical Directory (usually found either in print or online at most college libraries) to look up a journal title to find out this information. And of course, you can always ask your nearest librarian for help!
A librarian can help you evaluate whether the information you have found is reliable. If your professor wants you to find sources that are 'peer-reviewed', 'primary,' or 'scholarly,' a librarian will be able to help you interpret whether the information you have found meets those criteria.
A librarian can show you ways to evaluate whether the sources you have found are relevant to your topic.
A librarian can show you how to evaluate results from Google, and determine whether information in Wikipedia and other websites is reliable.