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Evaluating sources

This tutorial provides you with strategies and support on how to evaluate the research sources you have found. Please watch the following podcast to understand more about the questions you need to ask when evaluating sources and why this is such a valuable skill to learn.

Incorporating your evaluation

Once you've evaluated your sources, you need to decide how you are going to incorporate these ideas into your assignments. When should you summarise your source? How can you use synthesis to evaluate your research material? And when should you quote directly? You need to make sure that you choose the most effective approach for your assignment aims.

There are different ways of incorporating your evaluation into your assignments, but each has a different impact on the reader. Use the following short guide to make sure that you choose the right approach for your particular writing task.

Synthesising sources

A synthesis allows you to evaluate several sources at once by comparing the similiarities and differences in how they discuss the research topic. Using synthesis allows you to show your understanding of the sources themselves and give your own viewpoint on how well they support or conflict with each other's line of reasoning. You should remember to deal with the sources comparatively rather than looking at each one individually, and use specific examples to support your evaluation.

Sample synthesis

While Leung recommends a cautious approach to promoting economic growth, avoiding more sustained programme of financial stimuli (Leung, 2010, pp.67-9), Rossiter takes a more pro-active attitude towards such measures as quantitative easing and an increase in Government spending (Rossiter, 2011, pp.94-8). However, while Leung's discussion acknowledges the possible long-term impact of maintaining this deficit reduction plan, Rossiter's article does not address the issue of how his suggested approach could be funded beyond the short term.

Summarising sources

If you are dealing with a single source, a summary allows you to show your understanding of its main findings or conclusions without taking up too many words. Summarising gives you the chance to prioritise the elements of the source's content that you think are the most relevant to your assignments, and also demonstrates to the marker than you can sum up a writer's ideas in your own words.

Sample summary

Brevik's analysis of key market forces emphasises the importance of anticipating periods of peak product demand, but reveals that managing information demand is even more important if a company intends to remain cost competitive (Brevik, 2011).

Quoting sources directly

If you are analysing a source in close detail, for example, if you are looking at how a writer has defined the terminology used in the source's argument, then direct quotation can be very useful. However, many students over-quote, which takes up words and doesn't get you any marks, so only quote directly when absolutely vital or if you are going to analyse the quotation in depth.

Sample direct quotation

Ross notes that "combatting employee boredom is vital to maintaining productivity" (Ross, 2009, p.47) but this view fails to acknowledge the role played by physical environment in creating a focused and motivated workforce.

Test your knowledge

To complete this section of the tutorial you must submit your answers to a series of multiple choice questions. This must be completed by: Week 4 - Friday 27th October 12pm.

Further sources

Babington, D. and LePan, D. (2006). Broadview guide to writing. 3rd ed. Peterborough, Ont: Broadview Press.

Becker, H. S. (2007). Writing for social scientists. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

McMillan, K. and Weyers, J. (2006). The smarter student: skills and strategies for success at University. Harlow: Pearson.

Metcalfe, M. (2006). Reading critically at University. London: Sage.

Phelan, P. and Reynolds, P. (1996). Argument and evidence: critical analysis for the social sciences. London: Routledge.