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Evaluating the relevancy of your search results
You can determine the relevancy of search results by asking these questions:
- Does the source answer your central research question or your minor related questions?
- Does the source answer the full question or just one aspect of it?
- How strong are the similarities between the questions raised in the source found and those in your paper/thesis?
- How strong are the similarities between the units of research and analysis in the source found and those of your own research. The unit of research may be a (historical) period, a person, a group, an area or country, a natural phenomenon, a process etc..
- Is the context of the research unit in the source the same as in your own research/paper?
- When has the source been published and when has the research on which the piece is based been carried out?
You have to realise that only seldom you will find a source exactly matching all your own questions. You will have to combine information from many sources to answer your questions.
The special LibGuide evaluating sources has more on how to evaluate information.
Evaluating search results: how scientific are they?
The reliability (scientific nature) of sources can be verified by three kinds of checks:
- Check by others, before publication
Check by others, after publication
- editors: editors of scientific journals are stricter than editors of non-scientific journals
- publisher: some publishers only publish scientific books
- peer review: some journals but also some book publishers ask experts for a (blind) judgment 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)
- financier: some journals demand that the names are published of those who have funded the research
Your own check:
- reviews (in the case of books): is the book review positive?
- citations (particularly in the case of articles:): how many times is the article cited and especially; what is said about the article?
- who is the author and when was the article published (especially with web pages)
- affiliation of the author: the job may tell you more, for instance if the author is employed by a (good) university
- what is the intended audience of the publication (for websites and reports)
- how explicit is the phrasing of the question? Does the article contain conclusions?
- is the used method explained: how was the research organised, where do the data come from?
- are there enough references? Are they of high quality?: on which insights is the theory based?
- language use: level and grammaticality
In the special LibGuide Evaluating sources you will learn how to deal with these matters