Before you use your material in your text, you need to be certain it is written in an academic way. This page describes how to evaluate the material you find.
HOW DO YOU evaluate scientific material?
Scholarly texts have in common that they have references in the text, the language is objective and full of concepts. They often follow a set structure of abstract, introduction, method, result and discussion. Traditions from different fields as natural science, social science and the humanities give the texts varying characteristics. Furthermore, scholarly texts have varying qualities concerning
- the peer review process
- primary source or secondary source to science
The quality of the peer review- process can be important for your evaluation. A primary source is first-hand information or original data . A secondary source is an interpretation of a primary source-, and can describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyse, evaluate, summarize, and process the primary source.
Is the result still relevant and current?
A research result adds new knowledge and is used to conduct more research. When you have found something interesting, search for more in order to understand the research field better. How was the research received by others? How current is the result, and has there already been conducted and published more research which adds additional knowledge?
Comparing different texts to each other
A text presented at a recent conference can be the latest research finding, but it is also less reviewed than a finding presented in a scholarly article. Start off by categorizing your material according to publication form (i.e. article, dissertation/thesis, report, conference proceedings or book). By categorizing correctly you will get help in evaluating the content of the text and compare different materials to each other.Below you will find the most common publication forms described with the help of the questions:
- What is it?
- Who has written it?
- What is the purpose?
- Who is the intended audience?
A scholarly article
A scholarly article is published in a scholarly journal (academic/scientific journal) and is peer reviewed by other researchers and experts before publishing. The article is written by a researcher or doctoral student (PhD student), affiliated to a university or likewise. The purpose is to spread the research findings to other researchers.
A dissertation or thesis is thick as a book, published by a university and written by a doctoral student (PhD student). The dissertation is scrutinized and defended at a public seminar by an opponent who is a merited researcher and an examining committee of 3 or 5 highly merited academic researchers. The purpose of the text is to examine the doctoral student's knowledge in the field as well as his or her research methodology, in order to receive a doctoral degree. There is also licentiate thesis, valuing half of a doctoral degree.
A conference proceeding is published in a conference program and sometimes in a specifically published book or journal theme number after the conference. The text follows the structure of a scholarly article and presents parts of or aspects of the research project. It is sometimes peer reviewed before publishing. A conference proceeding is written by a researcher or doctoral student in order to spread research findings and to exchange ideas with peers. The intended audience is other researchers within the same area of research.
A research report presents ongoing or finished research and is published by a department or research institute. A report is not peer reviewed before publication and the author can be a researcher or head the research institute. The intended audience is researchers, government, media or other persons interested in the development.
A scholarly book or chapter in a book
A scholarly book is published by an academic publisher and the content is reviewed by an editor or with a peer review process similar to a scholarly journal’s. The intended audience is other researchers, but the book can also be used as course literature. It is easy to confuse a scholarly book to course literature written solely for students, but the review process and purpose of the book differ.
Use any of these links to get more information about source criticism:
- Source evaluation - Gothenburg University Library
- The CRAP-test is a set of questions used to evaluate sources. CRAP stands for Currency, Reliability , Authority and Purpose/Point of View
How to read a scholarly journal - Western University Libraries (3 minute video)
Evaluating sources (Crap-test) - Western university