So you've been doing some academic research, and you've found a lot of great resources, but how do you know if they're right to include in the assignment? Not all information is created equal, so you'll need to evaluate your resources to ensure that including a source helps your argument, rather than hindering it.
There are a couple of things you'll want to look for in evaluating an academic article for inclusion in your paper. I recommend looking through these things prior to reading the article so that you don't waste your time reading an article that might not turn out to be worth including in your project.
As an example of evaluation for academic resources, the below PDF has been examined to show you the process to take when evaluating whether an academic article should be included in your paper or speech. Each item is hyperlinked to more information about the process of evaluation:
Dundes, L. (2020). The upshot on Princess Merida in Disney/Pixar’s Brave: Why the tomboy trajectory is off target. Humanities, 9(3). doi:10.3390/h9030083
Start by evaluating the author. In this article, you see that there is one author and her credentials are given directly under her name. It is clear that she is involved with the Department of Sociology at McDaniel College. If you look more deeply into her background, you will see that she holds a doctorate degree in Sociology. Many of her other publications deal with Disney and gender studies, so it is clear that she is speaking on a topic in which is knowledgeable.
You'll also want to make sure that the author doesn't have a particular bias going into writing the paper. For example, you likely don't want to include an article about cheese products published by someone who is an executive at a Dairy company (because they stand something to gain by writing the article, they're probably not the best source for information). Often in a journal, a writer will have to disclose any conflicting information. An example in this instance would be if the author actually worked at Disney, but this is not the case.
Where is the information coming from and what is the process through which it came to be published? If the information is coming from a peer-reviewed journal, you're more likely to be able to trust the content because of the nature of peer-reviewed work. For more information on peer-review, click here.
So, for this article, how do we know the source of the information? Well, you can see that it is from Humanities, which is an open access journal. You can do a quick search to learn if it is peer reviewed, but if you are unsure, you can always check to see if it is peer reviewed through Ulrichweb. Ulrichsweb is a database of information about academic journals and their status as peer reviewed, open, reviewed by librarians, etc.
You can be sure that this material is peer-reviewed because of the little referee symbol. This symbol means that the journal is "refereed," which is simply another word for peer reviewed.
If a title is peer-reviewed and the author is an expert in the field, it is likely that is a fairly credible source. There are still a couple of things that you might like to look for before deciding to include the title in your paper or speech, though.
This is a big one for deciding whether something is good to include in your paper, though this is slightly less important for English classes, because the date of the texts you use might be older. If you're researching the coronavirus, on the other hand, you want the most up-to-date information.
This article is from 2020, so you can be sure that the information discussed is more current. This is helpful when using a source in an English course (though not essential, as mentioned above), because it means that you are entering a scholarly discussion that is currently going on. If you're only able to find articles from the 1940's about a piece of literature, it is likely that it is not part of the scholarly discussion.
If you've gotten to this point, you likely are good to include this title in your assignment, but if you're really taking a critical eye to the work in question, you'll want to check to see what the research methodology was for the paper. Did it include this information? If you've found a journal article that doesn't include information on how the research was completed, it is not nearly as credible of a source. In the case of an article for English literature, you will want to make sure that the author is using theoretical perspectives or language of the field in order to push their argument further.
Here, the "research" would include the dialogue analyses and the theoretical perspectives that the author uses to complete their analysis. Reviewing this article shows that the research methodology is sound, and it would be a good resource to cite.
Make sure to check what the author is saying with the work before using it in your paper. Sometimes, papers will inflate the conclusions from the research, and you don't want to include the unreasonable conclusions in your paper. The exception to this would be if you planned to refute the arguments that were made by the authors as part of your paper.
The conclusions drawn in this example paper are consistent with the research that was done; thus it is a good resource to use in your paper.
One last place to check for credibility is the sources that are referenced at the end of the article. Look at the validity of the cited resources and ensure that they cite a reasonable number of sources for the length of the paper. Here, there is an extensive list of cited references, the majority of which are academic articles with a couple of popular articles and book chapters added in.
If you've decided that the resource you've analyzed for credibility is perfect for your project, you might like to look through the citations to see if there are any other resources that might be helpful to include.
Once you've gone through this process, you'll need to incorporate your sources into your project. For ideas on how to do this, click here.