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Econ 337: Economics of the Public Sector: Evaluating Sources

This is a guide to sources on the research assignment for Econ 337, Economics of the Public Sector

Evaluating Sources

How do you evaluate resources?

For many academic research projects, instructors will require that you research many different types of resources.  Often it is difficult to recognize the value of a particular resource.  Below is a list of six criteria for evaluating resources, and questions or topics that you should consider when identifying the best and most appropriate books, articles, and web sites for your research.

Remember that, unlike books and articles which are approved by publishers, web sites can be created by anyone and made available on the Web freely.  That means that even children create web sites on many topics, so you need to consider the following criteria and questions carefully.

 

Criteria Books Articles Websites

ACCURACY
-Are sources of information and factual data listed, and available for cross-checking?

--Is there a table of contents?
--Does it include footnotes and a bibliography?

--Is there an index?

--Does it include footnotes and a bibliography?

--Does it include footnotes and a bibliography?
--Are there links to external sources?

AUTHORITY
--Who is responsible for the work, what are their qualifications and associations, and can you verify them?

--Does it identify the author? Is there biographical information or do you need to look elsewhere? Is the author an expert in the field? Is s/he associated with an organization that does research on this topic?

--Who is the publisher? Is it a university press, a commercial publisher, a professional or trade association, the government, or is it self-published?

--Does it identify the author? Is there biographical information or do you need to look elsewhere? Is the author an expert in the field? Is s/he associated with an organization that does research on this topic?

--In what type of journal/magazine does the article appear? Is it a scholarly journal, trade journal, or a magazine?

--Does it identify the author? Is there biographical information or do you need to look elsewhere? Is the author an expert in the field? Is s/he associated with an organization that does research on this topic? What does the domain name tell you about the location of the web site

.edu = educational institutions
.com = commercial/ business organizations
.org = non-profit/ other organizations
.gov = government agencies
.net = network resources

OBJECTIVITY
--Are biases clearly stated? 

Are any political/ ideological agendas hidden to disguise its purpose? 

Do they use a misleading name or other means to do this?

--Who is the intended audience? Is the book for general readers? Students? Researchers?


--Why was the book written?  To inform?  persuade? teach?  entertain?

--Is there a preface or introduction to identify objectives?

--Who is the intended audience?  Is the article in a publication that is written for general readers?  students? researchers?


--Why was the article written?  To inform?  persuade? teach?  entertain?

--What are the affiliations of the author?

--Who is the intended audience? Is the web site written for children? general readers? researchers?


--Why was the web site created?  To inform?  persuade? teach?  entertain? just for fun?

--What are the affiliations of the author?

CURRENCY
--How up-to-date is the information?

--What is the copyright date (located on the title page)?


--Is the information up-to-date, out-of-date, or does the information never go out-of-date?

--How current are the sources listed in the bibliography (dates)?

--What is the date of the article?


--How current are the sources listed in the bibliography (dates)?

--Are the dates listed?

--When was the web site first created?

--When was the last time that the web site was revised?

--Are the links still viable?  Do any linked sites identified still exist?

COVERAGE
--What is the focus of the work?

--Is there a table of contents? an index?

--Is the book organized logically and/or in a manner which makes it easy to understand?

--Are there appendices to supplement the main text?

--What are the affiliations of the author?

--Is there an abstract?

--Does the article cover the topic comprehensively, partially, or is it an overview?  Is it primary, secondary, or tertiary information?

--Are there clear headings to indicate an outline to determine what aspects of the topic are covered?

--Is there a Table of Contents? an Index? an Abstract?

--Is navigation within the web site clear?

--Does the article cover the topic comprehensively, partially, or is it an overview?  Is it primary, secondary, or tertiary information?

RELEVANCY
--Does the resource actually cover the topic you are researching?

--Does the book support or refute an argument?

--Does the book give examples?  survey results? research findings? case studies?

--Is it really research? or just commentary?

--Does the article support or refute an argument?

--Does the article give examples?  survey results? research findings? case studies?

--Is it really research? or just commentary?

--Does the web site support or refute an argument?

--Does the web site give examples?  survey results? research findings? case studies? link to other useful and recommended sites?

--Is it really research? or just commentary?

--Does it cover the topic as well as other types of sources (books, articles, etc.)?

Is it Peer Reviewed?

"Peer review" is the process through which experts in a field of study examine and assess the quality of articles before they are published. 

Sometimes the term "refereed" is used instead of "peer reviewed".

You can identify Peer reviewed journals in the following sources:

Peer Review: Pros and Cons

  • Experts review research and argument
  • Double-blind: neither reviewer nor the  author knows the other
  • Can be closed to new ideas, methodologies, or questions
  • Community scholars may be small, so often the reviewer and author know who each other is
  • Slow process: may go through several iterations before publishing. Can take over a year to publish
  • Publish to the Internet immediately after acceptance. Skip the print process, publish more quickly
  • Open review. Publish the names of reviewers before or after acceptance. Make reviewers responsible for their work
  • Publish reviews of the articles with the article. Researchers don’t have to reiterate their experiments, but readers can see what others have seen as weaknesses, flaws, or limitations of the research (Current AnthropologyAtmospheric and Chemistry Physics)
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