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How to Conduct Academic Research

This guide provides an introduction to the research process.

Evaluating Sources

You should carefully evaluate all information, whether from a book, article, or website, by asking the following questions.

You can also take SC4 Library's tutorial on evaluating sources.

 

  • Who?  Who is the author of this source?
    • Are they qualified to write/speak on the subject?
    • Do you detect any bias on the author’s part in relation to the subject?
  • What? What is the source?
    • Does it have a title?
    • Is it a primary source, such as an original document or creative work or is it a secondary source, such as a report or analysis of primary sources?
    • Is it authoritative or trustworthy?
  • How?
    • How was the source produced?
    • Who is the publisher or sponsoring organization?
  • Where did you find the source?
    • Was it through a library’s databases or through an internet search engine that may list results in a biased or weighted manner?
  • When was the source published? 
    • Has it been replaced or updated?

MLA Handbook. 8th ed., The Modern Language Association, 2016, pp. 11-12.

When evaluating information, it is useful to identify if it's a Primary or Secondarysource. By doing so, you will be able recognize if the author is reporting on his/her own first hand experiences, or relying on the views of others.

 

primary vs secondary sources

 

Image: MacMeekin, Mia. "How to Choose a Good Online Source." An Ethical Island, Mar. 2015, https://anethicalisland.wordpress.com/2015/03/20/how-do-you-choose-good-online-sources/. Accessed 31 May 2017. This file is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

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