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Literature Review: Evaluating Information

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Be Objective

In evaluating what they've read and deciding what to include in the lit. review, researchers should, of course, be objective. They must

  • avoid shunning information that contradicts their own views.
  • keep open minds.
  • look at the topic from different vantage points.
  • in short, act in a scholarly manner.

Types of Questions to Ask When Assessing Information

In writing a literature review skilled researchers evaluate their sources and evidence very carefully. For example, they ask such questions as:

  • Who funded the research studies? For example, what credence can be given to a study on African American IQs funded by the Ku Klux Klan?
  • Who actually performed the research?
  • When and where were the studies carried out?
  • What were the political, socio-economic, religious, etc. conditions at the time of the research?
  • Is there any reason to suspect that the methodology or the interpretation of the results were restrained by some authority? For example, what should a researcher conclude about medical experiments performed in Nazi Germany?

Evaluating Sources on the Web

When searching for resources on the Web think about CRAP!

C  Currency & Credibility

R  Relevancy & Reliability

A  Authority & Audience

P  Purpose & Point of View

Currency & Credibility Knowing when the Website was created can help you judge the quality of the information found there. Some information (such as historical facts) will not change, but other information (like stock quotes) changes daily. When was the site last updated? Are the links on the site active? What organization is responsible for publishing it?
Relevancy & Reliability Is the information provided appropriate for your research topic? Does the site provide good coverage of your topic? Is there a bibliography or a list of references? Do you feel comfortable citing this page in a college-level assignment? Knowing about the author of the information is useful.  Is the author an expert in his/her field? Check the domain name, as it can offer identifying information about the site.
Authority & Audience Can the author of the side be identified? Who is responsible for the content of the material--a person or organization? Is contract information given for the author and/or the site? What are the author's qualifications--education, occupation, years of experience, and expertise? Is the author affiliated with an institution or organization?
Purpose & Point of View  Can you find an About Us page? Does it state a purpose or mission? Is the site scholarly or popular? Are there ads on the site? What type of site is it?
.com = commercial
.gov = government
.edu = educational
.net = network
.mil = military
.org = non-profit organization