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Evaluating, Citing, Writing

Evaluating

 


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The research 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:

Authority

  • Is the author an expert in the field you are researching?
  • Is the author associated with a reputable organization?
  • Who is the publisher? Recognizable, educational, government? For example, if you need Canadian statistics for your research, try looking for publications from Statistics Canada.
  • 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?

Research tip: 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.

Timeliness
  • 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?


Relevance

  • 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 presented?
  • 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?

Research tip: 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.

Accuracy
  • Is a particular point of view or perspective being presented to the extent that accuracy is compromised?
  • What is the purpose of the information: to inform/educate/sell?
  • 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).


Coverage

  • 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:

AU Library. Internet Searching/Evaluating Web Information

Doing Research from a Distance

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