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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
The second chapter of the Handleiding Academische Vaardigheden 2.0 (in Dutch) discusses academic reading. It identifies three different reading strategies.
- Exploratory Reading
Read specific parts of the publication (title, introduction, conclusion) and scan the contents.
- Comprehensive Reading
Read and try to understand the complete text, sentence by sentence.
- Critical Reading.
Form your own opinion about the text.
Exploratory reading will help you identify the literature relevant to your research.