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ENGL 420: Senior Capstone Seminar: Evaluate Sources

This guide will support your annotated bibliography assignment and research skills in literary fields as you develop your thesis.

Is my source a scholarly work?

Is your source a scholarly work? Scholarly works offer transparency, making it relatively easy for readers to scrutinize their work. For clarification, please speak with a librarian or with your professor.

Reputation--Consider where the data or information is coming from.

  • Authorship: Who wrote the item? What are their credentials? Are they affiliated with any reputable institution?
  • Publisher: Is the publisher a scholarly press? What is their reputation? If you are unfamiliar with a publisher, investigate their website.
  • Review Process: Do items undergo any kind of formal review process? If so, how rigorous is this process? Who are involved in this review process, and how many are involved? What are their credentials and who are they affiliated with?

Content--How easily are readers able to scrutinize the author's work? Scholarly works can include research design and methodology to help readers assess the quality of information.

  • Language:  Does the item use language geared for experts in the field? If it uses language appropriate for general audiences it probably isn't scholarly.
  • References:  Scholars build from and add to the work of others. Scholarly items give proper honor and attribution by citing prior works.

Target--For whom is this item intended and why?

  • Audience:  Scholarly works are written by and for academics. Glossy magazines filled with color images and sold in grocery stores are meant for general audiences.
  • Intent:  Scholarly works are solely intended to enhance scholarship, adding to the body of knowledge in a particular field. The knowledge presented is expected to be objective. The presence of bias or the intent to persuade readers falls outside this stated purpose. That is why scholarly journals have minimal to no advertising.

How to read a scholarly article

When you read an article for the first time, read the following sections carefully for key points and arguments, and to find secondary sources related to your research topic.

Abstracts (if available): These one or two paragraph summaries give you the highlights of the article and the author's findings
Introduction: The author introduces her research. Often the very beginning of the article includes a review of literature relevant to the topic being studied. The author places the value of her work in an ongoing conversation. You might find works cited here that are relevant to your research topic.
Conclusion/Discussions: Near the end of the article, the author discusses what she discovered and/or concludes her argument. 

References: Pay close attention to the sources being used by the author. As you read more secondary sources, you may notice that certain sources are frequently cited, indicating that those sources are important to the scholarly conversation at hand.  

The structure of a scholarly article

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article: NCSU Libraries

The body of an article is usually presented in sections, including an introduction, a literature review, one or more sections describing and analyzing the argument, experiment or study. Scientific research articles typically include separate sections addressing the Methods and Results of the experiment, and a Discussion of the research findings.