What this handout is about

This handout will comment on strategies to evaluate secondary printed sources—books, newspaper articles, magazines, etc.—based on three criteria: objectivity, authority, and applicability to your particular assignment. Printed sources, whether main or secondary, carry out the proof for most of the academic essays you will certainly write in college. Non-print sources, such together webpages, fsnucongo.orgtions of arts (performance and also fine), and also interviews often provide far-reaching source product for analysis but space not extended in this handout.

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At some suggest in your college career, you will certainly be asked to create a study paper. If you might associate research files with history or political science classes, the study of most disciplines involves the collection and interpretation that data through the will of making and supporting one argument. To perform this, you should use some published texts, whether they space primary records or an additional sources the analyze main sources.

If you have never composed a research paper at the college level, the process may appear daunting. The very first step, of course, is to build a topic the investigates a trouble important to your discipline. For this, speak to your instructor or the library referral staff and also check the end our handouts on knowledge assignments, creating thesis statements, and making arguments in academic writing.

So friend come up v a an excellent idea and head come the library to start research. snucongo.org’s Davis Library has over five million books and also journals. Which people are helpful to her study? What if the details they present is false, outdated, or biased come the allude of inaccuracy? How can you tell? This handout will help answer these questions.

Researchers technique an unfamiliar source and ask questions of it with the on purpose of discovering clues that will certainly tell lock if they have the right to trust the resource and if it can include anything come the argument. The steps that room outlined below may show up drawn-out and perfsnucongo.orgtory come some; each step is outlined in information so the both novice and progressed researchers have the right to benefit. This will aid you strategy your sources much more carefully and critically.

Primary and second sources

This handout will focus on exactly how to evaluate an additional sources, yet the crucial skills friend learn below will aid in analyzing primary sources too. Prior to we can acquire to secondary sources, we require to differentiate primary from an additional sources. Primary sources come in miscellaneous shapes and sizes, and often you need to do a small bit that research about the source to make certain you have actually correctly identified it.

In a nutshell, a primary resource was developed at the exact same time that the events defined in the resource took place. Sound easy? In most situations it is. Right here are some examples and problem areas:

Diaries and letters composed by civilization who were participants in the action they define are simple to divide as main sources, but what about memoirs or autobiographies? These room usually created well after the occasions took place and also often will tell you an ext about the period in which lock were composed than about the period they describe.

What about newspapers? The writer of an short article presents an interpretation, but if the short article reports existing events, the is primary. If the post reports past events, that is secondary. Save in mind that an article about a past event can present beneficial primary evidence concerning the author’s context.

What about fiction? If you space studying the novel or city for its own sake, the is a primary source. If you space using the novel or city as evidence—a historic novel, because that example—it is a second source. In the very same vein, a 19th-century history textbook can be considered a primary source if you are studying exactly how the work was influenced by the duration in which the was composed or just how it fits into a continually of historical evaluation (that is dubbed historiography).

Check the end this table to assist differentiate main and an additional sources.

The storm by william ShakespeareAn short article that analyzes the motif the the ‘savage other’ in The Tempest.
The Diary of anne FrankA book about the Holocaust
The declaration of IndependenceA story of thomas Jefferson
Population statistics top top Ethiopia indigenous The world FactbookAn article titled “The influence of population growth on infant mortality in Ethiopia.”

Secondary resources will notify most that your writing in college. Girlfriend will frequently be inquiry to research your object using main sources, but secondary sources will tell girlfriend which main sources you must use and will assist you analyze those primary sources. To usage them well, however, you have to think critically around them.

There room two parts of a source that you need to analyze: the text itself and the argument within the text.

Evaluating the text

You advice a message to determine the objectivity of the author and the credibility that the work. Carry out not assume the your sole motive or goal is to eliminate sources. When this may be a consequence of her analysis, her goal must be to understand the paper definition of the work so you deserve to assess just how it deserve to inform her argument. To execute this, you must analyze the text according to three criteria: the author, the publisher, and the date of publication.


Remember earlier at the beginning of this handout I created that critically analyzing sources is all about asking questions? Well, right here is whereby you show off that skill. The following time you choose up a publication in the library, look at the author’s name. Have actually you heard the her? perform you understand if he is cited in other books on the subject? has your instructor discussed the author’s name? Is she affiliated with a university (which might or may not include to her authority)? does the writer acknowledge an organizational affiliation? The acknowledgements and preface are great places to obtain the answers to most of these questions.


Date the Publication


After assessing the text, friend may discover some bias. That does not typical you have to discard it. Possibly the writer thanks one anti-homosexual religious organization for capital his research on same-sex marriages. You might be tempted come toss the publication aside because you feel the a biased work will not provide the ‘facts.’ yet you might be absent out top top some good evidence. No an additional work is walking to give you the ‘facts.’ second sources provide interpretations of major data. Every translate is affected by the author’s context. snucongo.orgover out whereby the author is comes from and also use the evidence accordingly. For example, the book around same-sex marital relationships funded through the southern Baptist Convention may carry out a clean presentation the the conservative side of the issue. Paired v a publication that provides a for free interpretation, the conservative book may provide beneficial information around the assorted positions within the discussion.

Evaluating an argument

Analyzing the author, publisher, and also age of the text gives a good place to start your analysis. You must not avoid there, however. You need to move beyond the appraisal that the text and also begin to analysis the content. To carry out this, you have the right to use the same technique of questioning questions and searching for responses.


Is the work applicable to your study? The very first place come look because that answers is the table of contents. A publication can have a an excellent title yet then can be full of tangential concepts or take an approach that simply may not add to your study. The next place to inspect out is the index. The index is a wonderful source for researchers. You deserve to use the to quickly jump to details passages if your topic is fine defined. An ext often, you’ll scan the index to obtain a feeling for the authority and also scope of the text. Often you can learn many of what a publication can tell friend by reading the preface and also the advent and scanning the table the contents and also index.


Analyzing the debate gets to the heart of a an essential approach to her sources. While this task might seem an overwhelming at first, here are some tips and also techniques you can learn to make it a lot of easier:

Is the information supported by evidence? take it a great look at the note or endnotes. What type of resources did the author use? walk the bibliography cite the important books in the field?What is the significant claim or thesis of the book or article? Is it clear what the author is trying come prove?What room the primary presumptions on i m sorry the writer bases the argument’s main claim? do you agree v those assumptions? Is the writer taking too much liberty in do those assumptions?Check out the book Review index in the recommendation section the the library. Check out what various other scholars have written about this book. Are the reviews usually positive? execute they take into consideration the book useful or important to the field? This is not taken into consideration cheating. Top top the contrary, it will allow you to read the book with her eyes open, so come speak.


An analysis of the audience deserve to tell you a lot about how lot authority a book or article can claim. Many of what you snucongo.orgovered in your analysis of the text will educate your judgment of the plan audience. You can find out more by feather at how the publication is written and what kind of format it is composed in. Is the work full of technical terms or graphs? then the audience might be academic. Is the language very simple with several pictures? then the audience might be a younger crowd, or the publication may it is in intended because that light reading. If friend are reading a newspaper or magazine, look in ~ the advertisements. Who does the publisher expect will check out the source? An advertisement for Lexus automobiles or Johnny walker Red scotch in “Newsweek” may show a wealthy, education (and maybe male) audience. An advertising in “People” for Tommy Hilfiger or Pepsi may suggest a various audience.


The ton of a book is just how the author represents himself or herself with language. Solid and impassioned language may indicate to you that the author is as well emotionally linked to the work-related to administer an objective analysis. Most scholastic authors try to show up impartial in their composing by always writing in the third person and also staying away from invited adjectives. Here room some inquiries you deserve to ask about the author’s tone:

Does the author’s language it seems ~ impartial to you? space wild cases made? Is a many emotional language used?Does the author remain focused on the argument? Does he or she jump from suggest to point without completing any thoughts?Does the writer seem objective? does the information appear to it is in propaganda to you? Is a specific agenda put forth with the selection of data or the manipulation of evidence? Remember, recognize a prejudice does not necessarily average you must discard the book. Take it it in stride and also use the accordingly.


Answers to every the inquiries posed over will aid you identify whether you have the right to accept a resource as one authority. Deserve to you trust it? What can you trust around it? there is no easy way to answer that question, however by very closely approaching both the text and also the dispute you have the right to feel much more confident about the source.

Following the trail

It may happen that girlfriend come up through a topic and go to the library to snucongo.orgover sources. Girlfriend sit down v ten publications that friend gleaned indigenous a keyword find on the library’s digital catalog. You put all ten publications through the critical analysis actions outlined above, and also only one fits all your criteria. What perform you perform now? Go earlier to the library catalog? browser the shelves close to where you snucongo.orgovered the an initial ten? Those methods may work, yet a quicker way is to monitor the trail of sources in the one publication you have chose to use. Look in ~ the footnotes and bibliography. Note titles the the author relies ~ above or refers to as pillars the the discipline. Climate look up those book or short articles in the library catalog and begin the crucial analysis procedure all end again. This time, however, you understand what one writer thinks about the book, therefore it already has accomplished a level of authority or importance. Following the trail indigenous one book or short article to others can lead come an knowledge of the whole structure the the literary works on a details topic.

Apply what you’ve learned

Now that you know the key terms and also what questions to ask, placed your newfound knowledge to the test. What questions would friend ask of this handout?

Is the author an authority?Is the author biased?Can I find out anything native this handout?

How would certainly you go around finding out the answers to these questions? because that the an initial question, go to the snucongo.org Writing center Homepage. Over there you will find out that funds the creating Center and also who fsnucongo.orgtions there. The answer come the second question is yes, i do have biases, although i am more than likely not aware of every one of them. Carry out they affect what ns write? the course. Is that necessarily bad? Of course not. The answer to the third question is more difficult. Over there is no table the contents due to the fact that this is a short work, but the bold section breaks and also bulleted list should aid you scan the document for applicability. Everyone ideologies a learning case from a different angle, and also what is beneficial to one person can not be for the next. That is an assessment you need to make native your own perspective.

Don’t forget to follow the trace of this handout to continue thinking around these ideas: inspect out the perform below.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while composing this handout. This is no a an extensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to carry out your very own research come find extr publications. Please execute not use this list together a model for the format of your very own reference list, together it may not enhance the citation style you space using. Because that guidance ~ above formatting citations, please see the snucongo.org Libraries citation tutorial. Us revise these advice periodically and also welcome feedback. Special many thanks to Emily Jackson-Sanborn of fight it out University’s Perkins Library reference Department because that this handout’s internet references.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and also William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The handmade of Research, fourth ed. Chicago: university of Chicago Press.

Bowling eco-friendly State University. 2020. “Library Basics: assessing Print Sources.” university Libraries. Last updated July 8, 2020. Https://libguides.bgsu.edu/c.php?g=227153&p=1505673.

California Polytechnic State university Robert E. Kennedy Library. N.d. “Evaluating the Credibility of details Sources.” http://lib.calpoly.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Evaluating-Credibility-Fall-2017.pdf.

Ede, Lisa. 2004. Work-related in Progress: A overview to academic Writing and Revising, 6th ed. Boston: Bedford/St Martin’s.

See more: When Nad+ Reacts With Hydrogen And Gains Two Electrons, Nad+ Is _____.

Ormondroyd, Joan. 2011. “Critically assessing Information Sources.” Olin & Uris Libraries. Cornell University. Last updated April 5, 2011. Https://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/content/critically-analyzing-information-sources.

This work-related is license is granted under a creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 License.You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you usage the entire handout and attribute the source: The creating Center, college of north Carolina in ~ Chapel Hill