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Evaluating Sources for a Research Paper When choosing sources for a research paper, you need to think critically about each source’s reliability. By considering the author’s qualifications and analysing and evaluating the content, you can decide whether to accept or reject the author’s claims. The following strategies will help you choose reliable sources for your research papers. Pay attention to the author’s credentials and the publishing information. Ask yourself  Is the author a reputable scholar in his or her field? What are the author’s credentials—his or her education, professional experience, and institutional affiliation? What is the date of publication? Is the material current or out-of-date for the subject? If you are researching in the humanities, you may use material written some time ago. If you are researching in science or technology, you will want material that it as up-to-date as possible. Who is the publisher? Books published by university presses or articles published in professional or scholarly journals are more likely to be reliable. Take care with Internet sources—not all of them are reliable, particularly bulletin board postings. You are better off with electronic sources that are clearly professional or scholarly publications.

Analyse and evaluate the content of sources. Ask yourself   Is the material at the appropriate level of sophistication for my needs? Is the material a primary source (such as letters, government documents, contemporary newspaper accounts, and reports on the results of an experiment) or a secondary source (i.e., books and articles based on primary sources)? Because secondary sources restate, interpret or evaluate primary sources, you need to watch for biases or inaccuracies in a secondary source. What is the author’s position on the issue? Does the author support his or her position with sufficient facts? Facts are objective and verifiable—they are based on and can therefore be proven by direct observation or experience.

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Opinions are subjective —they express judgements/evaluations and reflect feelings. either/or terms o arguing that something is right because “it has always been done that way” or because it is a tradition. A must have caused B to happen o making exaggerated predictions about the consequences of an action o making sweeping generalizations (stating that something is true in all cases or false in all cases).e. You are more likely to find expert opinions expressed by reputable scholars or experts writing for reputable publications. Opinions cannot be proven.. o stating that because B came after A. Such statements are rarely accurate. but some opinions are more valid than others. [Slavery has been a tradition in various places at various times.] o arguing that a position is right because most people support it. but that fact doesn’t make slavery right. conclusions) from his or her evidence.  . Has the author made any mistakes in reasoning? There are a number of errors in reasoning (called logical fallacies) that can undermine the effectiveness of an argument. are those inferences reasonable? Do they follow logically from the facts? Has the author supported his or her position with opinions? An opinion is an interpretation of or a belief about a subject.  If the author draws inferences (i. The majority is not right if it supports an unjust cause. These errors include o distorting or oversimplifying a point of view different from one’s own o oversimplifying a complex issue by presenting it in blackand-white.