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When you find a source, consider these elements to determine if you should use it:
- How does this source help me answer my research question?
- You'll probably need a number of sources to fully answer your research question. Consider what each source contributes.
- Does it provide a perspective or argument that I don't have yet?
- Before choosing a source, consider how you'll use it and how it relates to other sources you've found.
- Does it support my argument? Does it represent an opposing argument?
- Some sources might provide evidence or context for your argument. Other sources might help you represent another viewpoint.
- Does it provide basic or background information about my topic?
- Books and newspaper articles are useful for finding background or basic information about a topic. Scholarly research articles are typically too complex to provide this.
- Is it intended to persuade, inform/educate, entertain, sell, or some other purpose?
- If you think it's intended to entertain or sell, consider if it's appropriate for academic research.
- Who is the audience? Is it written for other experts, or a general audience?
- Consider who your audience is and try to find sources that would appeal to them.
- Can I describe the credentials of the author? Are those credentials relevant to my topic?
- A quick internet search can tell you a lot about an author.
- Does the author use biased or prejudiced language? Is the author trying to stir emotions?
- Try to find sources that are being objective and don't use strong or emotional language.
- Was the source published recently or is it older? What has changed about my topic since it was published?
- Unless your topic is historical in nature, you'll probably want to use the most recent information you can find.
- Where was it published? What is the mission or focus of that publisher?
- Research the publisher on the internet, if you're not sure. Consider that's publisher's purpose and whether it's appropriate for your topic.
- What evidence does the author use to support their argument? If they cite others, are those experts on your topic? Can you identify where their evidence comes from?
- If you're not sure if the evidence is valid, try to verify it using another source.
- Do they describe their research methods in detail?
- Scholarly research articles will often describe their research methods thoroughly. Other types of sources might summarize the research of others, which is okay if they cite their sources.
- Do they cite their sources? If you needed to, could you find and read those sources?
These are some of the sources you might encounter while researching: