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Harlem Renaissance: ENG 3412

Research help for the course, "Harlem Renaissance"

Considerations for Evaluating Books

stack of booksWhen working with book materials (whole books, edited works, book chapters, etc.), be sure to ask yourself:

  • Who is the author? Can you locate the author's credentials?
  • Was the book published recently? Has it been revised or updated? Does that make a difference?
  • Who is the publisher? For example, is it a university press or academic publisher (i.e. Oxford University Press)?
  • Is the information presented objectively? Are there any potential biases?
  • Does this information add to or support your research?

To help answer the above questions, below are places to look:

  • Check the book jacket or back of the book for biographical information about the author(s).
  • Check the back of the title page for publication date and publisher information. 
  • Look at the first few pages for an introductory message or preface to learn more about the work's purpose or any biases that may be present.
  • Look near the back of the book for a list of references -- e.g. a works cited, bibliography, or endnotes -- to determine where the author(s) got the information. There may also be footnotes at the bottom of the pages throughout the book.

Evaluation Criteria

Tilted scalesUse the criteria below to help you evaluate a source. As you do, remember:

  • Each criterion should be considered in the context of your topic or information need. For example, currency changes if you are working on a current event vs. a historical topic.

  • Weigh all four criteria when making your decision. For example, the information may appear accurate, but if the authority is suspect you may want to find a more authoritative site for your information.

  • When in doubt about a source, talk about it with your professor or a librarian.

Criteria to consider:

  1. Currency: When was the information published or last updated? Is it current enough for your topic?
  2. Relevance: Is this the type of information you need (ex. a research study or scholarly article)? Is it related to your topic? Is it detailed enough to help you answer questions on your topic?
  3. Authority: Who is the author or creator of the information (can be an individual or an organization)? Are they an expert on your topic? Has the source been peer reviewed? Who is the publisher? Are they reputable?
  4. Accuracy: Is the information true? What information does the author cite or refer to?  Is this a research study with methods you can follow? Can you find this information anywhere else? Can you find evidence to back it up from another resource? Are studies mentioned but not cited (this would be something to check on)? Can you locate those studies?
  5. Purpose/perspective: What is the purpose of the information? Was it written to sell something or to convince you of something? Is this fact or opinion based? Is it unfairly biased?

Reading & Interpreting Sources

ReadingAfter you have decided that a source is potentially useful, read it carefully and critically, asking yourself the following questions about how this research fits your project:

  • How relevant is this material to your research question?
  • Does the source include counterarguments that you should address?
  • How persuasive is the evidence? Does it represent opposing viewpoints fairly? Will the source be convincing to your audience?
  • Will you need to change your thesis to account for this information?
  • What quotations or paraphrases from this source might you want to use?

Adapted from Easy Writer (4th ed.)

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