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Evaluate Sources

How to evaluate a source.

Rhetorical Triangle Test


Is my document scholarly?

Three points to test your source:

  1. Scholarly author – experts, researchers, or authorities
  2. Scholarly audience – intended for an audience of researchers, academics, or professionals
  3. Scholarly purpose – to inform, educate, or share research findings

Scholarly v. Popular Articles

How can I tell the difference?
Length Longer articles, providing
in-depth analysis of topics
Shorter articles, providing
broader overviews of topics
Authorship Author usually an expert or specialist in the field, name and credentials always provided Author usually a staff writer or a journalist, name and credentials may be provided
Language/Audience Written in the jargon of the field for scholarly readers (professors, researchers or students) Written in non-technical language
for anyone to understand
Format/Structure Articles usually more structured,
may include these sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography
Articles do not necessarily follow a specific format or structure
Special Features Illustrations that support the text, such as tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs Illustrations with glossy or color photographs, usually for advertising purposes
Editors Articles usually reviewed and critically evaluated by a board of experts in the field
Articles are not evaluated by experts in the field, but by editors on staff
Credits A bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes are always provided to document research thoroughly A bibliography (works cited) is usually not provided, although names of reports or references may be mentioned in the text

Primary vs. Secondary Source

Primary sources are records that provide first-hand testimony or evidence of an event, action, topic, or time period. Primary sources are usually created by individuals who directly experience an event or topic, and record their experience through photographs, videos, memoirs, correspondence, oral histories, or autobiographies.

Common Examples of PRIMARY Sources:
Letters, diaries, memoirs, speeches, interviews, photographs, notes, subject files, oral histories, autobiographies, travelogues, pamphlets, newspapers, newsletters, brochures, government documents including hearings, reports and statistical data, military service records, manuscripts, archival materials, artifacts, architectural plans, artistic works, works of fiction, music scores, and sound recordings.

Secondary sources put primary sources in context. They summarize, interpret, analyze, or comment on information found in primary sources. Secondary sources are usually written by individuals who did not experience firsthand the events about which they are writing.

Common Examples of SECONDARY Sources:
Biographies, monographs, journal articles, dissertations, theses, essays and encyclopedia articles.

Reference: Shari Salisbury. UTSA Library

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