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Texts and Criticism: ENG 3096 (James Salazar section)

Research help for James Salazar's Fall 2021 course, "Texts and Criticism."

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.

Considerations for Evaluating Articles

Printed journal article with pens and highlighters laying beside it.When working with journal articles, (peer-reviewed, scholarly, academic, etc.), be sure to ask yourself:
  • Does the article's topic seem to fit with the journal's disciplinary focus?
  • Who is the author? Can you locate the author's credentials?
  • How old is the article? Will this matter for your topic? Currency of information can be important. Some aspects of a topic may need currency more than others.
  • 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:

  • Look at the journal title information. The title of the journal should tell you what field the article came from. Likewise, visit the journal's website or use a library database to find out 1) the focus/scope of the journal, and 2) if the journal uses a peer-review process to edit articles.  
  • Check the first and/or last page of the article for details about the author's credentials.
  • Look near the beginning of the article for mentions of how the overall argument connects with the broader scholarly conversation (e.g. Introduction or Literature Review sections).
  • Look at the body of the article for examples given -- e.g. scenes analyzed, survey results, primary research findings, case studies, incidents.
  • Look at the end of the article for a list of references consulted -- e.g. a works cited, bibliography, or endnotes. There may also be footnotes at the bottom of the pages throughout the article. Any of these can lead you to other sources.

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 writing 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.)

Video Tutorials on Evaluating Sources

Video Tutorials on Reading Strategies