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Preliminary Evaluation

As you search in databases, it is helpful to ask yourself a few questions about the sources you find in order to make an initial judgment about how useful they might be for your project. This will help you develop a better understanding of your topic and adjust your search if you are not finding relevant sources. 

During your database search, before you read the full article, use these strategies and questions for preliminary evaluation:

  • Identify the publication date. Is the date appropriate for your topic? 
  • Read the article abstract (this usually appears on the article information page in a database after you click on the article title). Does the article sound interesting? Which aspects of your topic does it cover? What does it not cover? Can you tell if it presents a particular argument or perspective on your topic?
  • What does the article not cover that you still want to learn about your topic?

Additional Evaluation

After you read an article and start to use it in your research paper writing process, ask yourself these questions to help you develop a deeper understanding of the credibility, perspective, and limitations of a source.

  • Who is the author and what is their background? What credentials do they have that give them expertise on the topic? You might find links within the article that help you investigate the author, or you can do a Google search.
  • Which publication produced the article? What topics and perspectives does the publication cover? Again, use links within the article or a Google search to explore the publication.
  • What is the purpose of the article? Is it presenting an argument? Is it meant to provide background information and educate an audience?
  • What issues or perspectives are not covered in the article? 
  • How will you use this source in your project?