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HASS 439/539 -- Middle East Development: Evaluating Sources

This guide provides access to resources and research tips for students in Professor Amery's Middle East Development course.

How to Evaluate Sources

What kind of information do you need?  If you are writing for a class assignment, you may be required to use peer-reviewed ("refereed") or scholarly sources.  In any case, you should always look for sources that are authoritative.

 

Important Definitions

Scholarly Journal Articles – credible sources that have been written by an expert/academic in a field relevant to your project and reviewed by other experts in the same field

Websites – just because you found something on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s a website (eBooks are available online, but they are not considered websites)

Peer-review – the process or experts in a field evaluating work in the same field

Primary sources – first-hand accounts (examples include speeches, letters, photographs, autobiographies)

 

For more help evaluating sources, see our Evaluating Information guide

Questions to Ask Yourself

  • What type of source is it?
    • A Tweet? A blog post? A website? A popular magazine article? Scholarly journal article? A trade publication? A stakeholder interview? A patent?
  • Who wrote it?
    • Does the author demonstrate Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness (E-A-T)?
      • Are they trustworthy? Do they have visible credentials?
      • Do they have authority in this subject? Do they work in that field? Are they educated in the subject? Do they have related professional or personal experience?
    • Is the content user generated (wikis, internet forums, group blogs)?
  • Why was it written?
    • Who is the intended audience?
      • Where was it published (A scholarly journal? A popular magazine?)
    • Is it sponsored?
    • Is the author trying to sell something?
  • Is the information accurate?
    • Was the work peer-reviewed?
    • Does it cite other works?
      • What sources does the author use for getting their information?
      • Are there enough sources cited to support the claim(s)?
    • Does the tone of language seem unbiased?
    • Is the information current or up to date?
  • Does the source support the assignment?
    • Is the content relevant or appropriate for the context of the assignment?
    • Does the paper need primary sources?
    • Does the paper need popular opinions on a topic?
    • Do claims in the paper need to be back with evidence? Are there scholarly resources to support this?

The Web vs. Library Tools

Although you can find high-quality information through web search engines, using library tools such as the catalog and databases may help you find information sources more efficiently.

Web Search Engines Library Tools
Search the worldwide web; much is unpublished; quality of information varies from one page to the next Search published materials, selected for scholarliness and high quality
Usually no features for saving search results Researcher tools allow you to save search results, email, print, generate citations, etc.
May be difficult to narrow search results to hone in on what you want Features are available to narrow search results by topic, format, date, etc.
Web pages may be "here today, gone tomorrow," information on webpages may change overnight Published work has stability; publisher takes responsibility for any updates or error correction
Social networking (comments on articles, e.g.) allows you to get an idea of the state of current conversation about an issue Published materials tend to be more static
Good for reading news, current events Good for finding scholarly and authoritative works on a topic
Very current information can be found Publication process takes awhile; information is weeks or months old

Source Evaluation Tutorials

Check out these videos for help evaluating your sources.