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ESL 1A: Critical Reading and Analytical Writing

Learn about Brandeis Library and master your research papers!

Questions to ask yourself when evaluating resources*

Scope

  • What is the range of topics or subjects covered by the article, book or website?
  • Is it a general work that provides and overview of the topic or is it specifically focused on only one aspect of your topic?
  • Does the scope of the information resource meet your expectations?
  • Does the resource cover the right time period that you are interested in?  

Audience

  • Who is the intended audience for this source?
  • Is the material too technical, too clinical, too basic, or just right for your paper?  

Scholarly vs. Popular

Documentation

  • Does the article, book, or website have footnotes, a bibliography, or list of works cited? 

Tip: Footnotes and bibliographies are evidence of research and serve to authenticate the information that the author is presenting.

Currency

  • When was the source published? 
  • Is the source current or out of date for your topic?  
  • If it is a website, when was it last updated?

Tip: Topics in some subject areas, such as the sciences, will often require more current information. Topics in the humanities may require older material.

Authority

  • Who is the author?
  • What are his or her academic credentials? Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization?

Objectivity

  • What point of view does the author represent?
  • Is the article and editorial that is trying to argue a position?
  • Is the article published in a magazine that has a particular editorial position?

 


*Material on this page was adapted from the University of California Berkeley Library's website, "Critical Evaluation of Resources" and Cornell University Library's "Critically Analyzing Information Resources."

Scholarly vs. Popular

For many of your assignments at Brandeis, your professors will ask you to use scholarly articles in your research. Library databases often have a menu option for limiting your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed journals, but you should also understand the characteristics of a scholarly journal article so that you'll be able to recognize these sources.

This chart outlines the basic differences between articles from popular publications and articles form scholarly journals:

 

Articles from Popular Publications

Articles from Scholarly Publications

Writers

Usually written by staff writers and Journalists

Researchers and Scholars (Experts on the topic)

Audience

General Public

Researchers and Scholars (includes college students)

Reviewed by

Editors

Editorial board made up of other scholars and researchers (“Peer Reviewed”)

Style of Articles
  • Shorter articles
  • Written with language that does not require expertise
  • Illustrations and pictures
  • Longer articles
  • Written in formal, scholarly style
  • Few pictures; illustrations often are charts and graphs

Purpose of Articles

To entertain or share general information To share research findings
Sources cited Almost never In bibliographies/footnotes/endnotes

Examples

  • Time
  • Sports Illustrated
  • New Yorker
  • Shakespeare Studies
  • Journal of American History
  • Journal of Virology


This chart is based on the University of Texas Austin Libraries' "Popular, Scholarly, or Trade?" guide and UNC Chapel Hill's "Types of Journals" guide.