Once you have some sources, you can figure out how they fit your topic, and your assignment requirements.
These are some steps you can take to make sure you are evaluating your sources and selecting the best ones for your assignment.
Before you begin looking for articles, have a clear sense of the assignment and your professor's expectations.
If you are not sure, ask your professor. A librarian can help you to locate proper sources and/or help you to review the sources you have found.
If you have free rein over the types of resources to use for a paper, think about what you need:
Choose source types on these bases, with a critical eye.
Scholarly sources are often required for college level research. They have the highest level of authority, as they are written by experts in the discipline, generally PhDs. Many but not all of them are peer-reviewed, also known as refereed. In the peer-review process, articles are scrutinized by a panel of experts to verify accuracy, validity, and value to the profession.
Trade journal articles are written by those practicing in the field. The authors may be nurses, teachers, managers, engineers, etc. The purpose for the journal is to share information and practical strategies among people who are working in a profession. They are less lengthy and may have a few or no references at the end.
Popular sources are those written by journalists or freelance writers. They are meant to appeal to the general public, often with sensationalized titles, glossy photos and illustrations, and many advertisements. Their main purpose is to entertain and generate revenue. Use the chart below to help you compare scholarly, trade, and popular publications, or use the attached document.
Learn about the difference between the three main types of articles you might come across during library research.
This video will offer suggestions for evaluating sources. In particular, questions to ask yourself to determine if the source you found is reliable and verifiable, fits the assignment requirements, and helps you answer your question.
You can save time by being a smart reader. You can scan through your sources; you don't need to read every article you find during your search.
Look through each source, following these steps, and ask yourself, Does this source seem relevant to my topic?
If the source still seems relevant to your topic, then you can read the source from the beginning if it's an article. Or, you can read an entire chapter or section if it's a book.
If it doesn't seem relevant, then you probably don't want to use this source for your assignment.