process requires you to think critically about the information you
locate. Is the information of a quality and relevance suitable to
your specific information needs? Evaluation is a critical aspect of
research: you need to evaluate both your search strategies in retrieving
information as well as the information you retrieve.
Whether you located your information
in books, in journal articles, on the Web, or from any other source,
you must examine it critically. Information found on the Web can be
especially problematic: it has not gone through the traditional publishing
process and its authority and accuracy are often difficult to verify.
Here are some questions
to ask yourself:
- Is the author an expert in the field
you are researching?
- Is the author associated with a reputable
- Who is the publisher? Recognizable,
educational, government? For example, if you need Canadian statistics
for your research, try looking for publications from Statistics
- For journal articles: is the article
from a scholarly, peer-reviewed (refereed) journal?
- For the Internet: it is sometimes
difficult to determine authorship for Web pages. Look especially
for sites from educational institutions or governments. Does the
author provide contact/biographical information?
When you find an author that has written on your topic it is useful
to see if she has written other books or articles or papers on the topic.
Try searching for the author's name in library catalogues. Try searching
journal databases by author.
- What is the publication date?
- For your specific topic, is the information
dated? Do you need current or historical information or both?
- For the Internet: when was the Web
page last revised or updated?
- Does it contribute to your knowledge
of the topic?
- Does it refute/support the arguments
you are presenting? It is often useful to include in a meaningful
way both materials that refute and that support your arguments.
- Is there useful background information
- Is it written from a women-centred
or feminist perspective?
- Does the material focus on women?
- In addition to gender, does the author
take into account other material factors such as race, ethnicity,
sexuality, age and so on?
When you find a useful article on your topic be sure to check the references
and notes to see what research the author has consulted. This is your
key to related research.
- Is a particular point of view or
perspective being presented to the extent that accuracy is compromised?
- What is the purpose of the information:
- Are facts cited and references supplied
so that the information can be verified in credible sources? Poorly
documented information is immediately suspect.
- For the Internet: be wary of documents
posted on commercial sites (.com).
- Is there a section in the book useful
to your research even if the entire book is not specifically about
your topic? For example a general book on body image may contain
information about adolescent girls and ideas about promoting a healthy
image to them.
- Does the author let you know what
is covered and what is excluded?
- Who is included in the study, who
is left out and what difference does it make?
- Are points of view other than the
author's acknowledged and discussed (Examples of points of view
in feminist scholarship include liberal feminism, cultural feminism,
and materialist feminism)?
To learn more about evaluating information
you find on the Internet:
Library. Internet Searching/Evaluating Web Information
Research from a Distance