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Universiteitsbibliotheek – LibGuides

Gender Studies in the University Library: Evaluating sources

Gender studies embraces a range of disciplines, from the Humanities to the Social Sciences.As traditionally all disciplines had their own book collections, the interdisciplinarity if this field of research is a challenge to both librarian and library user

Why evaluating sources

Before using the sources you have found, you should evaluate their relevance and scientific nature. Here we will offer you several methods and tools.

Lingo

  • peer review = blind check on scientific quality by fellow experts
  • spoof = fake publication, usually satirical

Spoofs: who gets the joke?

Sometimes entire publications are imitated having as aim satire, criticism, identity damage or commercial gain. That we are dealing with a fake publication may be clear from the start, but it may be done so subtly that you hardly notice it. In that case the exposing of a spoof is a question of experience and reading and viewing very carefully

NRCNext spoof

NRC Next became victim of a spoof in the build-up to the 2012 elections of the Dutch parliament

Book Reviews

You can use a book review to:

sommige bladen (zoals de New York Review of Books) bevatten heel veel boekbesprekingen

  • Find out which new books are thought important
  • Test your own opinions against those of others
  • Take note of the importance and, in a very limited way, the content of a book without reading it yourself

To be found in: 

  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Literary journals
  • Scientific journals
  • Professional journals

Evaluating websites

If you want to use information from websites other than regular scholarly articles and books you should be extra careful and think about the role you give that information in your argument or analysis.

Ask yourself the following questions when reading webpages and be extra careful if the answer is negative most of the times.

  1. Is the name of the author/maker available (and do you know more about the author)?
  2. Can you find an e-mailaddress of the author/maker?
  3. Is the webpage free of (lots of) advertisements?
  4. Is the use of language careful, not childish, correct?
  5. Is it clear how the information on the page came about?
  6. Are sources mentioned (so no phrases like "research shows that") without any quotation of sources?
  7. Are claims well-founded (so no phrases like "as is common knowledge")?
  8. Is it a balanced piece or does all information point in the same direction?
  9. Is the author open about matters still unknown or uncertain?
  10. Can you find when the page was written or updated?
  11. Is the page unbiased or in any case without strongly political or commercial aims?

These questions do not relate of course to the use of scientific articles or e-books published on websites.

How to evaluate the relevance of sources

To 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.

In the special LibGuide Evaluating Sources you will find more 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

Checklist for sources: the CRAPMAP

The CRAPMAP consists of a list of questions that help you to assess whether the (online) information you have found is reliable and useful. Depending on your situation, items from the list are more or less important.

Currency
The timeliness of the information

 When was the information published or posted?
 Has the information been revised or updated?
 Does your topic require current information, or will older sources work as well?

Relevance
The importance of the information for your needs

 Does the information relate to your topic or answer your questions?
 Who is the intended audience?
 Is the information at an appropriate level (not too simple or too advanced)
 Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?
 Would you be comfortable citing this source in your research paper?

Accuracy
The reliability, truthfulness and correctness of the content

 Where does the information come from?
 Is the information supported by evidence?
 Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
 Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
 Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
 Are there spelling, grammar or typographical errors? [Second task or achievement]

Publication
The source of the information

 Who is the author/publisher/source/journal/sponsor?
 What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
 Is the author qualified to write on the topic?
 Is the publisher/journal scientific? Are they reputable?
 Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?

Metrics*
The impact a source has on the scientific field

 Are you able to find metrics for the source?
 Is the source cited by current research?

Altmetrics*
The impact a source has in general

 Are you able to find altmetrics for the source?
 Is your research impacted by how well the source is received?
 What does the public reception of a source indicate?

 * For information about metrics and altmetrics see the LibGuide Research Impact & visibility: traditional and altmetrics

Purpose
The reason the information exists.

 What is the purpose of the information? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain or persuade?
 Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
 Is the information fact, opinion or propaganda?
 Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
 Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, financial or personal bias?

This checklist is based on the CRA(A)P test, originally developed by the library of the California State University, Chico