Lean in close, I have a secret
Human beings make mistakes. Not only budding scholars such as you, but fancy researchers with fancy degrees from fancy colleges. ALL the information you read/watch/consume should be given the sniff test to find out:
Is it CRAAP or not?
Part 1: Evaluation
Okay, we are starting our search (Google, Library catalog, databases -- anywhere!). How do we know what to trust? Our clues are:
Currency – Has the site been updated recently? Do the links still work? Do the graphics still load? When was the article copyrighted?
Relevance – Is this article about the topic you’re researching? Who is the intended audience (college students, K-12, professors)?
Authority – What are the author’s credentials? What is the publisher’s angle? Is contact information provided?
Accuracy – Are sources cited for the claims made? Has the information been reviewed? Can you verify the facts? Are there spelling or other errors?
Purpose – Is the article intended to persuade? Does the author make the intent clear? Does it seem impartial or biased?
Since you are working on analyzing literature, the literary criticism databases will be most helpful to you. Keep in mind that Academic Search Premier and other databases may have some stuff in there that isn't literary critcism.
Searching is easy!
Students can throw some words into a search box and hit the button. That's something everyone has done. It's finding the GOOD stuff that's tricky.
The first steps of evaluation (in Google, Library catalog, Wikipedia, databases):
The first clues are the same. Once you search you have:
Part 2: Selection
Okay, we have some search results. Which of these is best for our particular paper? Our full range of clues are:
1) Keyword in title? – This is a good sign that the article is RELEVANT.
2) Read the abstract!! – There is no better clue to whether we want to use this in our paper than this SUMMARY. It should tell you want was studied, how and possibly why. (concerns PURPOSE and RELEVANCE)
3) Long enough? – A scholarly article should be longer than 1 or 2 pages; watch out for editorials or sidebars. (speaks to RELEVANCE)
4) Reliable source? – Is the author affiliated with a university? Is the publication a scholarly journal or a magazine? (that’s AUTHORITY and ACCURACY)
5) Don’t take that tone with me! – Is the tone of the article biased or unbiased? Is it intended to inform or persuade? (this is PURPOSE)
6) When was it written/published? – Think about it like this: do you want your doctor treating you with information from an article published in the 1960s? Not if you want to live. So pay attention to WHEN the information comes from; knowledge changes over time. (CURRENCY)