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Training finding and handling scholarly information for GEO4-3633: 5. Evaluating sources

Research master human geography


  1. Have a look at the info on the right.
  2. Find out the affiliation (where people work) of the authors of the first book in your list of literature. Also check what else they have written (books or journal articles).
  3. Find out whether the first article you found in Google Scholar is published in a journal that is peer reviewed or not. You can often find this on the journal website, but also in the list of journals on the library site.
  4. Using the full text of the last article you found evaluate:
    • the quality of the references cited in this article;
    • whether the article explicitly mentions methods used or the way data or sources used in the article/research were collected.

Evaluating the relevancy of your search results

You can determine the relevancy of search results by asking these questions:

  1. Does the source answer your central research question or your minor related questions?
  2. Does the source answer the full question or just one aspect of it?
  3. How strong are the similarities between the questions raised in the source found and those in your paper/thesis?
  4. 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..
  5. Is the context of the research unit in the source the same as in your own research/paper?
  6. 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:

  1. Check by others, before 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
  2. Check by others, after publication
    • 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?
  3.  Your own check:
    • 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