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MSHAL Literature Review: Step 4: Evaluating Information

Evaluating Sources

Currency

  • Is the information current? You want to make sure that the information you are using is current unless you are focused on the history of a topic.
  • Normally the past 5 years is considered current in a field.

Author

  • Who is the author and what are their qualifications?
  • Who published or sponsored the article? Are they reputable? Do they have a bias?

Accuracy

  • Is the information verified in multiple articles?

Bias

  • Persuasive language-using words and sentences that solicit a positive or negative response from the reaser or that lead the reader to the specific conclusion
  • Misquoting a source-when the article rewords, paraphrases or manipulates a statement or source's information
  • Selective facts-taking information out of context or picking out only the information that supports the argument
  • Flawed Research-basing a claim on too small a sample

Relevance

  • Does the article fit into your research?

Examining Sources

Need to be Objective

In evaluating what they've read and deciding what to include in the lit. review, researchers should, of course, be objective. They must:

  • avoid shunning information that contradicts their own views.
  • keep open minds.
  • look at the topic from different vantage points.
  • in short, act in a scholarly manner.

Questions to Ask Yourself...

In writing a literature review skilled researchers evaluate their sources and evidence very carefully. For example, they ask such questions as:

  • Who funded the research studies? For example, what credence can be given to a study on sugar intake funded by Pepsi?
  • Who actually performed the research?
  • When and where were the studies carried out?
  • What were the political, socio-economic, religious, etc. conditions at the time of the research?
  • Is there any reason to suspect that the methodology or the interpretation of the results were restrained by some authority? For example, what should a researcher conclude about medical experiments performed in Nazi Germany?