PSC 352: Introduction to Comparative Politics (Nicoletti): Evaluate Your Sources

A selection of resources to help in the completion of the final research paper in Dr. Nicoletti's Comparative Politics course sections.

Evaluating Resources

The books, journal articles and web sites recommended for your course will already have been evaluated for their quality by your teachers

However, when you are asked to find your own information, you will have to judge its quality.

In this section you will learn how to critically evaluate the information that you use for your assignments.

CRAAP Test

Currency

Timeliness of information

  • When was the information published?
  • Is the information current and up-to-date?
  • Has it been revised or updated? When? Should it have been updated?
  • If online: are the links functional?

Relevance

Uniqueness of information and importance to research needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. too elementary or too advanced)?
  • Can you find the same or better information in another source?

Authority

Source of information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • What are the author’s credentials? Any organizational affiliations?
  • Is this author qualified to write on the topic?
  • If online: examine the domain (.gov, .edu, or .com). Can you find the author’s contact information?

Accuracy

Reliability and correctness of information

  • Is the information supported by evidence? Can you verify it from another source?
  • Has the information been peer reviewed or refereed?
  • Does the language seem biased? Is the tone free of emotion?
  • Are there any typos, spelling, or grammatical errors?

Purpose

Presence of bias, reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information: to inform, teach, sell, entertain, etc.?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Is the point-of-view objective and impartial?
  • Do the authors make their intentions or purpose clear?

What is a Scholarly or Peer Review Article

North Carolina State University Libraries explains the peer review process and its significance in research.

Primary / Secondary Sources

You also must be able to distinguish between what is a primary and secondary source of information, especially important when dealing with historical evidence.

Primary Source - this is an original source made at the time e.g. a contemporary account or news report; official records; photographs; a film of an event etc. A primary source has credibility because it is a record of what was seen, heard or experienced.

Secondary Source - this has been processed or edited in some way e.g. a news reporter commenting on selected highlights of witness evidence; audio or visual material which uses selected extracts or may have been digitally altered.

"Secondary source evidence has less credibility because any type of processing will have altered it in some way such as to remove part of it and thus to alter its meaning, emphasis or context." Critical Thinking Course; Chapter 8, (online) accessed 2005

Evaluating Journals

Evaluating Journals

CHARACTERISTICS

SCHOLARLY/PEER REVIEWED JOURNALS

GENERAL MAGAZINES

How to tell the difference between these two types of periodicals:

Content

Reports on original research; in-depth analysis of topics; statistical information; academic level book reviews; refereed or peer-reviewed

Current events and news; hot topics; brief, factual information; interviews

Length


Longer articles providing in-depth analysis of topics


Shorter articles providing broader overviews of topics

Authorship


Author usually an expert or specialist in the field; name and credentials always provided - researchers, academics, professors, scholars

Author usually a staff writer or a journalist; name and credentials often not provided

Language


Academic level writing & vocabulary; specialized language of the discipline; can be highly technical

Non-technical vocabulary; often simple language

Format/Structure


Articles usually more structured; may include these sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography

Articles do not necessarily follow a specific format or structure

Editors


Editors/reviewers are experts in the same field as author(s); many participate in peer-review process prior to publication; rigorous publication standards; articles checked for content, format and style

Editors not academic experts in subject field of article; article topics often assigned or contracted; articles usually only edited for style and format

Publishers


Professional organizations; Universities, research institutes and scholarly presses

Commercial/trade publishers; corporate ownership

Special Features


Illustrations that support the text, such as tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs


Illustrations with glossy or color photographs, usually for advertising purposes

Credits


A bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes are always provided to document research thoroughly


A bibliography (works cited) is usually not provided; names of reports or references may be mentioned in the text; sources, when used, are rarely cited in full

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