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Step 2 - evaluating your readings

It is important to critically evaluate your readings to establish their relevance and credibility for your research topic. After all, you are basing your theoretical framework and your literature review on what you have read.

Authority
Validity
Accuracy
Objectivity
Currency
Coverage
Location
Final check

Here is a check list of critical questions to keep in-mind when you evaluate your readings:

Authority

  • Who conducted the research?
  • Is the author an authority in their field of study?
  • What evidence is there to support this?

Researchers can find information from many sources, eg volumed journals to company reports. At all times, you must check the authority of who has written the research. The Internet has given people access to huge amounts of information. Some of this is valid, other parts are not. You cannot simply accept that all information / research available on the Internet, eg through Google, is valid. Many university libraries, such as the RMIT library, subscribe to online, referenced journals which provide current academic writings. These are not always available through Google.

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Validity (of research & sources)

  • Where has this research come from?
  • Is it from a valid source, eg an educational institution?
  • Is it peer reviewed or been passed by an editorial panel, eg is it in a refereed journal?
  • If it is from a website, does it contain details of author, is it from a .edu site, does it have a publication date?

Many libraries, including the RMIT library, have access to electronic journals and databases. These contain qualified, academic writings. Be careful of doing a google search that brings up unqualified sites.

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Accuracy

  • What is the literature about?
  • Is the literature accurate and how do you know? One way to find out is to check if the same research is referred to in other sources, or is it inconsistent with other findings?
  • What makes the literature believable? Is the literature from credible sources, see validity.

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Objectivity

  • Is there evidence of bias in the article? For example, would you trust research from a cigarette manufacturer claiming that smoking does not damage your health?
  • Do the statistics match those in other publications? If not, is the argument (method, research design etc) on which they are based convincing?
  • How do you know the data is true? What other supporting data is there?

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Currency

  • What is the publication date of the material?
  • Is it likely that more current information is available?
  • Have you found any more recent research that casts doubt upon or refutes some findings?
  • Have you checked for more recent information / research? It is advisable to have some references that are current.

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Coverage

  • Is the information complete? Based on your research so far, does the information appear to cover the area being studied?
  • What is the sample size? Is it adequate?
  • Is there any further research that has not been mentioned or deliberately omitted from the findings?

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Location

  • In which country was the article written?
  • Is this location relevant / important to your research?

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Final check

When you have considered all the questions above, ask yourself:

  • What does this all mean?

You are looking for the strengths and weaknesses in what you have read to produce a critical and sound literature review.

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Step 3 - summarising, analysing & organising your readings

 

 

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