As you search, keep track of the most promising sources and then look at them closely, asking yourself these questions.
When you aren't an expert, it may seem daunting to evaluate the work others have published, but a book's table of contents or an article's opening paragraphs will help establish relevance. The language it is written in will help you decide if it is scholarly enough and yet not too highly technical for your purposes. Information given about the author might help you decide how much an authority he or she is. For Web sources, follow links to information "about this site" or to an author's home page, or shorten the URL to everything up to the first slash to see what its parent page looks like. When in doubt, check with your instructor.
Compare: In addition to looking at the quality of individual sources, compare them so that you can see where there are differences and conflicts. Even if you are heading toward a particular conclusion, you want to discuss alternative perspectives so your reader gets the big picture.
Corroborate: If you feel as if you're going out on a limb, try to corroborate the information you want to use in another source. A reference librarian can help you do that.
Note, because there is such a wide variety of information from so many sources on the Web, it's extremely important to evaluate what you find using this criteria. Ironically, some of the Web sources that seem scholarly are quite out of date. The Catholic Encyclopedia, for example, is a copy of a reference work pubished in 1917. The library has the up-to-date 2002 edition in the reference collection, but had to pay rather a lot of money for it. The one that is free online is so old it's no longer under copyright.?Unfortunately, though convenient, it's only useful if you want information about the Catholic church in 1917. A few things have changed since the
The first question to ask is: Should I use the Web for this project or not? The Web is great for some topics, but is not a good place for others. In general, the WEB IS NOT A GOOD SOURCE FOR SCHOLARLY RELIGIOUS STUIDES. It also is not good for finding finding literary criticism, scholarly analysis of social issues, or the kind of broad overview written by a noted scholar that a really good specialized encyclopedia can provide. In addition to its print resources, libraries often pay for resources that are accessed through the web; these aren't indexed in search engines. Some "free" sites for magazines and newspapers charge for using their archives; library databases offer them at no charge. Consider these steps as you plan a search:
Use these strategies as you sort through your results:
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