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POM POLI 008 - Introduction to International Relations - Professor Reiling - Fall 2017

Is There Such a Thing as a "Good" Source?

For every assignment, and every research question, there is a different set of parameters for determing if information and sources are appropriate and useful.

Consider this statement: There is no such thing as an objectively good or bad source. There are only sources that are good or bad for YOUR research.

There are many different criteria that you need to consider in evaluating if information should be included in your research, or not. You can find a few guiding questions below.

Still not sure if your source is appropriate for your assignment? Reach out to your professor or your course librarians. 

Why Cite Your Sources?

Citing your sources is important for giving credit to the work of others and avoiding plagiarism.

In the world of academia (and beyond), proper attribution of sources also demonstrates how you are engaging and adding to the existing body of knowledge. By citing your sources, you are entering into the scholarly conversation.

Questions or concerns about citations? Please contact your course librarian (Allegra), or the Scripps Writing Center.

Appropriateness of a Source to Topic

Here are a few guiding questions to consider when determining if a source is appropriate to use in an assignment:

  1. What type of source is it? (Primary, Secondary, Journal Article, Website, Book, etc.) Are you asked to use certain types of sources to complete your assignment?
  2. When was the source published? Is the source too old or too new for your purposes?
  3. Who is the author of the source? What are the author’s credentials?
  4. Is the scope (time period, population studied, location) of the source appropriate to your topic and assignment?
  5. How are you planning on incorporating the source into your argument? For example, are you planning to critique the source or using it to support an idea?

Guiding Questions for Evaluating Sources

First off: How do you intend to use this source?

  • Do you plan to cite this source as reputable information?
  • Do you plan to critique this source as an example of bias about your topic?

Your use will determine what answers you hope to get from the following questions.

Who is the author?

  • What are the author's credentials, educational background, area of expertise, etc.?
  • Have other scholars cited this author's work?

Why was the source written?

  • Is the information in it fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the author want people who read it to take some action? For instance, are you being persuaded to buy something or to vote for something?
  • Is the author's point of view objective and impartial? Can you detect a bias?

How was it written?

  • Does the author tell how facts were gathered? Were they gathered from unbiased sources?
  • Is there any documentation offered, for instance, do you find a bibliography or other "credits"?

Why was it posted or published?

  • Who is hosting this website or publishing this book or journal?
  • What do you know about the company or group? Do they have a bias?