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ENGL Composition: Evaluating and Analyzing Resources

This research guide will help with both basic and advanced English composition courses

Evaluating Resources


Person in the field has studied, research, and written about a scholarly subject.
Others with knowledge of the subject review the article for content and methodology.

Article is published in a journal.  Article is published for scholarship rather than monetary gain.

Editing is about content and scholarship.

Writers are not necessarily scholars or writing about a scholarly subject.

They are paid to write information that will sell; however, the information does not necessarily have to be verified, tested, or adhere to a methodology.

The paper quality and style of the publication are usually expensive.

Editing is based on grammar and appearance.


Table listing characteristics of scholarly journals compared to popular magazines.

You've all heard it before: You need scholarly/peer-reviewed sources.  Vetted, authoritative sources.

What does that mean? Sometimes, looking at a source and deciding whether it applies to your paper  is more than just deciphering  whether it is scholarly and from a peer-reviewed or refereed source (journal, book, or a solid website).  Often, a source can be both very valid and scholarly, but not meet the criteria for your assignment.

For instance, encyclopedias may offer small analysis of a subject, it does not offer an in-depth analysis.  Dictionaries, encyclopedias, and companions are great places to start to get basic information about your subject; however, they should only be a starting place.  These are scholarly, citeable sources; however, they are not usually what your professors are wanting.  The best places to find these are in databases and book chapters

Another issue is internet sources-sources that are not in scholarly databases or electronic journals.  A rule of thumb is that a website should be a .edu or .gov site.  It is more likely to be researched.  However, these are not hard and fast rules. Good questions to ask about any source

1. "Who wrote it and why?"

2. "What do they have to gain?"

3. "What is there expertise?"

4. "What are their sources?"--Magazine, government website, journal, book, etc.

Other things to remember when looking at scholarly works:

  • When was it written? Depending on the subject you are writing on twenty years ago is a good time frame; in other disciplines, such as science and business, five years ago is as far back as you can go to get good solid articles.  Most databases have ways for you to limit the time frame of your search.
  • How current is the author's references?  Are they current or contemporary to his/her own writing?
  • Do they clearly define and clearly prove their thesis?  If they use a text or work, do they have a good balance of their own critical analysis as well as scholarship from others


If you ever need help evaluating resources, here are a number of online resources that are beneficial to determining whether a source is solid.

Purdue OWL: Evaluating Sources Overview (Purdue)


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