By Michelle Kizer
During my last three years here as an ASU student, writing consultant, and an instructor, I have learned that regardless of the course, most students are required to complete some type of final project that involves research. This means that you are going to have to comb your way through dozens of websites, books, library databases…and did I mention tons of journal articles…in order to find resources that will work with your project. In fact, you may even locate hundreds of potential sources, which are far more than you will have the time to read. But part of being an effective researcher means developing a process of evaluating the sources you find.
How to Use Evaluation at Each Stage of the Project
As you plan, research, and evaluate, you will need to think through the kinds of sources that will help you fulfill your overall purpose with the project.
The following questions are a great way to develop your process of evaluation:
Evaluate as you PLAN
- What kinds of sources do I need? (Books, articles, websites…etc.)
- What do I need these sources to help me do: Define? Persuade? Inform?
Evaluate as you SEARCH
- How can I find reliable sources that help me answer my research question?
- Which sources will help me build my credibility as a researcher?
Evaluate as you READ
- What positions do these source take in the debate on my topic? What are their biases?
- How do these sources inform my understanding of the topic and the position I will take?
Evaluate as you WRITE
- How do the sources I have chosen help me make my point?
- How do my own ideas fit into the conversation on my research topic?
Final Words of Encouragement
One of the most important things to remember is that evaluating sources is not something that you can do in one sitting. Just as writing is a process, source evaluation is a process as well. This typically involves planning, searching, reading, and reflection…a process that is often repeated over and over again. Thankfully, as a student at Appalachian, you are surrounded by many useful resources that can assist you as you take your journey to completing your final project. So if you find yourself in a bind, remember that Belk Library is a great place to start. Not only do you have the knowledge available to you through the Librarians, but also through the Writing Consultants at the University Writing Center located on the lower level of the library. Come by and see us as you complete your final project!
Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. Rules for Writers. 8th ed. New York: Bedford, 2016. Print.