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POLS-396: Topics in International Relations

1) Evaluating Sources: books and articles

Up until now, we have primarily been focusing on how to find books and journal articles through the Library's resources. In this module we will look at two very important aspects in the research process that occur after you have located a piece of information (book, journal article or website): evaluating and citing sources.

Carefully evaluate each source you find to determine if it is appropriate for your research. Previously, we discussed how academic journal articles can be distinguished from other types of periodicals. Here is a checklist for criteria used to judge information sources, particularly books.

Evaluating Sources Checklist

Purpose Why was the resource written? Was the author's purpose to inform, persuade, or to refute a particular idea or point of view?
Audience Is the resource intended for the general public, scholars, professionals,etc.
Authority What are the author's qualifications? Consider author's educational background, past writings and experience. Is the author associated with an organization or institution? Who is the publisher? Are they well known? Does any group control the publishing company?
Accuracy Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda? Facts can be usually verified. Opinions evolve from the interpretation of facts. Are the author's conclusions or facts supported with references?
Timeliness When was the information published? Is the date of publication appropriate for your topic?
Coverage Is it relevant to your topic? Is the topic covered in depth, partially or is it an broad overview? Does the resource add new information, update other sources or substantiate other resources that you have consulted?
Objectivity Does the author present multiple viewpoints or is it biased? How do critical reviews rate the work?

2) Evaluating Sources: On the web

As was mentioned in 2.3: Searching the Web, it is important to evaluate the sources you find on the Web, because Web pages can be produced by anyone. Here is a checklist of criteria to think about when you are searching the Web:

Evaluating Web Sources Checklist

Audience Is the level of the website appropriate for university-level research?
Author Can you determine the author of the information? Is the author
recognized as an expert on the topic? Is there contact information
on the page?
Content Is the information accurate? Is this an opinion piece? Does the site provide documentation, such as references, for the information provided? Is the information presented in an objective manner?
Are all sides of an issue represented, or is it biased?

Can you determine when this information was created or published?
Are the links valid? Is it current enough for your research?

Publisher Can you tell who the publisher of the information is? What is the site's domain
and what does that tell you about the publisher?