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Analyzing Sources Assignment
Take some notes about the sources you gathered for the initial research into this project – what aspects of your sources were difficult to summarize at length, or were there sources that did not directly relate to where you anticipate going with your essay? Identify the sources that might not fit your needs any longer.
Now evaluate your sources for the following:
Authority and Credibility
Who is the author of each source – not the person, necessarily, and who is the publisher? Is it a recognizable source?
Is it a university press or an academic journal – these are considered more credible.
Does the source include a works cited or bibliography – what sources did your source draw on? Does it include a wide variety of citations from other credible sources?
Does the author make a reasonable argument with a balance of views included?
Is there any indication the author has relevant expertise?
Is there depth to the information? Did it take you time to summarize?
Does the source provide links (if a website) to similar sources and does it provide a date of last update for its pages or other information?
Audience and Purpose
What is the tone of the source, the appearance of the source (if online or visual), and its intention?
Does it try to appeal to an audience in a way that indicates its purpose is to sell, persuade, or influence?
Does it simply present information in an unbiased way? How so?
Is it advocating for a cause or to raise funds?
Who is it aimed at – can you tell?
Sites and other sources with well-documented evidence and focused on scholarship or presenting facts in balanced ways will be most useful.
Objectivity and Bias
Most sources provide a point of view or a bias that is implicit or explicit, but a strong source gives a balance – a range of views about the topic or issue.
Biased sources have no place in an academic essay, even if you counter that source with other, unbiased sources. A biased source is not credible because you can’t trust it – it is not objective. A source that can’t be trusted might do the following:
Make broad, sweeping claims
Use a tone that is unreasonable, excessive, or over-the-top
Exaggerate its significance or value to the topic
Include no opposing views or provide only one view
Attack opposing views rather than consider them
Your sources should be relevant not just to the general topic, but to your essay’s purpose.
How does it specifically address what you think might be your thesis, or the ideas you think you want to focus on in your essay?
How recent are your sources? Do you need something more updated?
Do your sources relate or is it a stretch to make them fit what you want to say? If so, you might need to find sources that are more relevant.
If the source is a web site, when was it last updated?
Write a brief evaluation for each of your sources so far using the prompts above, highlighting the most relevant and applicable questions to your research. Consider the following questions, as well: which sources will you keep and which might you discard? What other sources do you need? What are the ideas you want to write about that need additional sources to support them? Which of your sources is lacking in credibility or relevance or accuracy, and therefore might need to be discarded? What is your plan for getting additional sources to support your essay?
Collectively, your responses should total between 500 and 750 words.