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Introduction to Literary Studies (Li1V18001/TL2V18001): Evaluating search results

Evaluating

Before you use the sources you have found their relevance and scientific nature should be evaluated. In this Libguide we will offer you several methods and tools.

Why evaluate sources?

It is obvious that you should evaluate the relevance of your sourcces. You evaluate their scientific nature to increase the reliability of your own piece. Indirectly reliability is also determined by the kind of sources you use. If the scholarly nature of your sources is beyond doubt, your paper itself will less likely be doubted.

How to determine the relevance of sources?

klik voor amker van deze animatieTo determine if a piece is relevant, you may try to answer the following questions:

  1. Does the source help you to answer your main questions and sub-questions?
  2. Does the source answer your whole question/sub-question or only one aspect?
  3. To what extent does the main question of the source you found match with your own questions?
  4. How strong are the similiarities between the research object or the analysis unit in the piece you found and those in your own paper/thesis? The research object may be a period, or a person, a group, an area, a substance, a disease, a proces etc.
  5. Is the context of the research object the same as in your case?
  6. When was the piece published and when was the research written about executed?

Think that you will rarely find a source that provides a complete answer to your main questions and sub-questions and that gives a report of the exact same research or problem you are working on. Thank goodness, otherwise your work would have no use at all....

How to determine the scholarly nature of sources?

The crux of science lies in the extent to which an author/researcher performs his work objectively and makes it verifiable. In determining the quality and scientific nature of sources you may start from three kinds of checks:

  1. Check by others, preceding publication
    • editors: editors of scientific journals are stricter than editors of non-scientific journals
    • publishers: some publishers only publish scientific books
    • peer review: some journals but also some book publishers ask experts for a (blind) judgement before publication
    • search engine/online bibliography: some search engines only include articles from high-quality, peer reviewed journals (for instance Scopus and Web of Science
    • financiers: some journals demand to know who funded the research
  2. Check by others, after publication
    • reviews (in the case of books): are the reviews positive?
    • citations (mainly in the case of articles): is the piece cited often (taking into account how long it has been available) and more importantly:what is being said?
  3. Check by yourself
    • are author and date of the text mentioned (particularly in the case of webpages)?
    • affiliation of the author: the author's job may tell you more about the scientific level, for instance if the author is employed by a good university
    • is the target group mentioned: (in particular in the case of websites and reports)
    • presence of explicit research questions and conclusions
    • presence of an explanation of the method used: how was the research conducted, where are the data coming from?
    • presence of enough and high-quality literature references or notes: what insights are used?
    • language level and well organised text