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Modern Culture and Media

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Evaluating Sources

One way to evaluate sources, including those on the web, is to ask yourself these five questions:

1. Currency: How up to date is the information in this site?

2. Relevance: How relevant is the information for your needs? Is it an appropriate level (not too elementary or too advanced)?

3. Authority: Who is responsible for the information in this source? What are their credentials?

4. Accuracy: Does the source provide evidence to support the information? Can it be found elsewhere?

5. Purpose: What is the purpose? Is it to teach, sell, persuade?

This test was developed by librarian Sarah Blakeslee and her team at California State University, Chico.

Why not just Google?

The Library owns or subscribes to literally millions of resources, specifically chosen with scholarship in mind

  • Scholarly, peer-reviewed journals
  • Books published by university presses
  • Databases that give you an efficient way to research topics in your field

The Library's resources provide access to quality information that, for the most part, is not available on the open Web.

Google, on the other hand, is a commercial venture. You can find some good material there, but the results list is based on popularity rather than on scholarly content and quality.

What is the difference between a scholarly and a popular article

A scholarly article appears in a publication, such as a journal, which is made up of articles on a narrow topic and which document and discuss the results of original research. Publishing in a scholarly journal is a method researchers use to communicate their research and share with other scholars in their field of study.

  • Authorship: Usually by one or all of the researchers who did the research.
  • Content: Often includes a review of literature previously published on this topic, methodology used in the study, and the findings.
  • Audience: The audience for these articles is usually discipline specific, and as a result the language in articles is often technical and discipline-specific.
  • Peer-Review: Articles in scholarly publications have gone through an editorial review by a panel of experts (peer-review) to ensure that the article has met the requirements of a scholarly article.
  • Access: Many scholarly periodicals are only available through libraries. An increasing number are also available as open access publications.

 

A popular article appears in a magazine or newspaper that you may buy at the supermarket. The content in these publications often covers current events or summarizes research done by others. The content in these publications is often brief, written in simple language, and may include pictures and advertisements. Authors are not always named, and sources are not always identified. 

What is a Literature Review?

Research, and the literature review in particular, is a cyclical process. There is an art to the sometimes messy, thrilling, and frustrating process of conducting a lit review.

  • Read widely but selectively.
  • Follow the citation trail -- building on previous research by reviewing bibliographies of articles and books that are close to your interest.
  • Synthesize previous research on the topic.
  • Aim to include both summary and synthesis.
    • Focus on ways to have the body of literature tell its own story. Do not add your own interpretations at this point.
    • Look for patterns and find ways of tying the pieces together.

Conducting a literature review

  • Throw out a wide net and read, read, read. 
  • How many sources do you need? What types of sources? Which citation style should you use? What time period should it cover? Is currency important? What do you need to be aware of related to scholarly versus popular materials?
  • Explored synonmyms and alterntive phrases in your searches. You will eventually begin to find the same articles and materials in your searches.

Writing a literature review

  • The initial work Identify the organizational structure you want to use: chronologically, thematically, or methodologically
  • Start writing: let the literature tell the story, find the best examples, summarize instead of quote, synthesize by rephrasing (but cite!) in the context of your work