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US - Researching Identity for English 11/12: Beyoncé and the Black Panthers

Evaluating Sources in the Research Process

This page picks up from your response to  race and identity in class when you discussed Beyoncé's nod to the anniversary of the founding of Black Panther Party for Self-Defense African American revolutionary party fifty years ago.   As you consider this further for your research paper, remember the importance of evaluating your sources.  There are many sources on this page which allow you to gather more information while practising your evaluation skills. In your research, you may consult the internet for news articles, blogs, editorials or go to subscription databases with access to encyclopedias and academic journals.  Regardless of the source, a good researcher must evaluate the source in order to understand its bias and assess its accuracy.  The links and videos here will take you to a wide variety of responses to Beyoncé's Super Bowl performance (some valid and some less so). It is up to you to decide.  So, what are the important steps to evaluating a source?  Cornell University's evaluation checklist which is included here is a useful list of questions to ask yourself.  See the box called "Evaluating Sources" below.

Evaluating Sources

Source Evaluation Checklist

Use this checklist which is adapted from the Cornell Digital Literacy Resource to evaluate the information sources you discover as a result of performing a search. Check the items in each of the following categories:

Purpose

• What is the purpose or motivation for the source? (E.g., educational, commercial, entertainment, or promotional.)

• Is it trying to sell you something? How easy is it to differentiate advertisement from content in the source?

• Based on your knowledge, is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?

• Who is the intended audience for the information, and how is this fact reflected in the organization and presentation of the material?

Authority

• Is the author identifiable?

• What is the author's background? (E.g., experience, credentials, and occupation, and has he or she published anything else on the topic?)

• Does the author cite his or her sources?

Currency

• When was the resource last updated or revised, and how often is it updated?

Reliability

How stable does the resource seem to be? The resource’s dependability (particularly in the case of Web sites) is important if it is going to be cited as a source or recommended for use by others.

• For Web sites, do most of the links on the page work?

• From your evaluation of currency and authority, do you think the resource will be there the next time you visit it?

Coverage

• What information is included or omitted?

• Is the resource completed or under construction?

These are not the only criteria you will need to look at. Depending on what your professor has asked you for and on your research needs, you may need to look for certain kinds of material. In academic research in particular, your professor may ask you to find scholarly, peer-reviewed, or primary sources.

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