Evaluating Research Sources

In the Washington Post, I ran into a Letter to the Editor from a person who was interviewed for an article.  According to the letter, the individual stated a particular way some people typically behave and that the person he was talking about was not among those people.  When the quote was edited into the story, the quote was edited in such a way, it looked like he had said this person acted that way.

The Lakeland Library’s Evaluating Sources reminded me of that.  Though it’s for research papers, it’s still handy resource for writers.  The file gives criteria about evaluating research sources and detecting bias.  It also has an list of links for more information, including links from Berkley and Cornell.

Right now, I’m working through both Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Workshop and Writing Sideways.

One thought on “Evaluating Research Sources

  1. bigwords88

    As far as any research goes, the material should not rely on – nor make any concessions to – the ubiquity of Wikipedia. It may be eminently easy to log on and get a quick refresher on a topic, but as a definitive source of information it is woefully lacking in both accuracy and breadth. There are reasons why it has been condemned by both colleges and schools as a source of information for reports. There are quite a few websites listed in that document, and it is an immediate worry when I see websites listed as references – the ease of putting a website into operation offsets any integrity that I immediately assume a non-fiction book will have, and the report must work twice as hard to gain my respect. The only time I have ever used web references in footnotes is if I am specifically writing about the internet, and want to show the reader where the material referenced can be located online.

    The best online resources from which to draw for reporting should have three qualities: 1) It should be fixed in a permanent archive location and not updated. Any change to the text alters the page, and I consider it an invalid use of referencing. 2) It should not be hidden behind a pay wall. I have no problem registering to read content, but I refuse to pay for access if there is just the one element I require to view. This goes double for newspaper sites. 3) It should clearly display any relationships with people mentioned in the body text. Too often I have encountered what amounts to little more than promotional material in the guise of reporting. That is not what reporting is.

    Wayback is good for referencing as I know it to be fixed, and any questions of impartiality can easily be checked using other resources to verify the statements which are presented. I would be less hostile towards Wikipedia if they were more transparent in the reasons they roll back entries to less well-researched versions. Citing issues of notability drives me insane.


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