What makes for a good research paper? The quality of one’s research depends on several factors, including the crispness of the language, organization of ideas and the strength, or persuasiveness of the argument. And yet, no matter how well-crafted a paper may be, it is only as good as its sources. Credible sources are the foundation of a solid, well-turned out research paper.
But how can one tell if a source is credible? To evaluate a source, ask yourself the following questions:
- Who published the source? Is it a university press, or large reputable publisher? Is it from a government agency? Is the source self-published? Was the publication subjected to peer review? What is the purpose of the publication?
- Where did the source derive its information? Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched, or is it questionable and unsupported by evidence? Is there a list of references, or works cited? What is the quality of these references?
Who is the author? What are the author’s credentials (educational background, publication record, research experience) in this area? Have you seen the author’s name cited in other sources or bibliographies?
- When was the source published? Is the source current, or out of date for your topic?
- What is the author’s intention? Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda? Is the author’s point of view objective and impartial? Is the language highly emotive or biased?