WHAT KIND OF SOURCE DO YOU HAVE?
Is your source reliable?
Is your source scholarly/peer-reviewed?
Academic Book (Routledge)
CHOOSE YOUR SEARCH TOOL(S):
In order to choose an appropriate research tool, you should consider your research needs. What do you need at this point in time? Are you still becoming familiar with your topic, or are you trying to fill specific gaps?
Need help selecting a research tool? Consult your professor, or a librarian!
THE INFORMATION LIFECYCLE:
The Information Lifecycle helps us understand how information about an event, topic or idea might emerge and evolve over time.
Note that this timeline is just a general sense of the information lifecycle -- the exact timing can vary greatly from one discipline to another!
This graphic is designed to help you understand what sources might look like when studying the ancient world.
EVALUATE YOUR SOURCES:
Part 1: What are scholarly sources?
Scholarly sources are written by experts on a particular subject (for example, a professor or other researcher). They also go through an extra process of review and approval by a group of other experts before they can be published. Usually, scholarly articles are written for an audience of other scholars. The chart below compares the characteristics of scholarly vs. popular (non-scholarly) sources:
|Usually staff writers and/or journalists
|Experts on the topic -- usually researchers, scholars and/or professors
|General public (for "popular" consumption)
|Other experts (and students) in the field
|editing & review
|Editor(s); generally concerned with grammar, style, etc., with some fact-checking
|Other experts ("peer reviewed"); generally concerned with quality, thoroughness of research, strength of argument, etc.
|style & design
Reasonably brief, typically uses colloquial if not informal language. Often illustrated with graphics, sidebars and other aesthetic elements. Sometimes accompanied by ads.
|More extensive in length; tends to be more formal and uses specialized vocabulary. Illustrations and charts are used only when furthering content.
|goal or purpose
|To entertain; and/or, to share general information
|To share findings, advance and argument and/or engage with other scholars
|Few or none; if sources are used, there may not be formal citations.
|Typically uses many sources, cited in detailed bibliographies, footnotes and/or endnotes
|Time Magazine; Sports Illustrated; New Yorker; Boston Globe
|Annual Review of Political Science; American Historical Review; Sociology of Education
It's important to keep in mind that scholarly sources are not always the best or only source available to you -- it depends on what information you are trying to find:
Part 2: Checking Facts
No matter what you're researching or what kinds of information you're working with, you should always situate your source within the context of the timeline, the audience, the content, etc. Think of it like doing a background check!