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Library DIY

Appropriate sources to use

Evaluate your results list to determine whether a resource (book, article, or film) is relevant to your research.

1. What is it about?  Read the title and the abstract (a summary of the article) to know if an article is really related to the topic you're researching. If there is not an abstract, read the introduction of the article and scan the article headings.

2. What is the subject area focus? Knowing the discipline or subject area of the article can help you decide if the article is relevant. Look at the title of the book/article or the journal title to determine the subject area. For example, if you are researching global warming activism for a political science class, an article on global warming from a chemistry journal will be too technical and not focused on political issues.

3. Are you looking for recent information? The publication date or copyright will be a critical clue to whether the article or book is relevant.

4. Is it a book or an article? Some results lists describe the item, or you can tell from the citation. Often your professor requires that  you use a specific format, like peer reviewed journal articles.

5. Is it scholarly? If you are required to use only scholarly sources, you will evaluate whether the item is scholarly or not. For books, look at the publisher. Is it a University press or other scholarly press? You may need to Google the publisher. For articles, look at the title of the journal, not the article title. Note that some databases will indicate in the results whether the article is scholarly or not, and in some databases, you can limit your search to scholarly articles.

6. What type of article is it? Not every article in a scholarly journal will be appropriate for your research. In addition to research articles and feature articles, peer reviewed journals contain book reviews, editorials, and interviews. The type of article may be apparent from the information provided by the database, but in some cases, read the abstract or the beginning of the article to know for sure. When in doubt about whether something is appropriate, look at your assignment instructions and/or ask your instructor.

7. If it is a research study, what type is it? This may only be relevant in courses that require a specific type of research; quantitative, qualitative, experimental, systematic review. The abstract usually identifies the type of study. Also, look in the article for a Methods section, which describes the research.