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Source Evaluation

What is a Literature Review?

literature review is a comprehensive study and interpretation of literature that addresses a specific topic.

Literature reviews are generally conducted in one of two ways:

1) As a preliminary review before a larger study in order to critically evaluate the current literature and justify why further study and research is required.

2) As a project in itself that provides a comprehensive survey of the works published in a particular discipline or area of research over a specified period of time. 

Why conduct a literature review? They provide you with a handy guide to a particular topic. If you have limited time to conduct research, literature reviews can give you an overview or act as a stepping stone.

More:  different types of literature reviews on how to conduct a literature review.

What is a Primary Source?

primary source is an original object or document -- the raw material or first-hand information, source material that is closest to what is being studied. Scientific and other peer reviewed journals are excellent sources for primary research.

Primary sources vary by discipline and can include historical and legal documents, eye witness accounts, results of an experiment, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, and art objects.

In the sciences, the results of an experiment or study are typically found in scholarly articles or papers delivered at conferences, so those articles and papers that present the original results are considered primary sources.

secondary source is something written about a primary source. Secondary sources include comments on, interpretations of, or discussions about the original material. You can think of secondary sources as second-hand information. If I tell you something, I am the primary source. If you tell someone else what I told you, you are the secondard source.

Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that evaluate or criticize someone else's original research.

Tertiary sources have the most fluid definition of the three levels of analysis.  Generally speaking, tertiary resources analyze and synthesize information about a given topic.  In other words, tertiary sources are information about information.  They summarize the research on a particular topic in a user-friendly form or list primary and secondary sources. 

Backward and Forward Citation Searching

Working from a reputable resource using forward and backward citation searching is one way to find related, reliable sources. 

Forward citation searching involves seeing where the source has been cited AFTER it's publication. In an online platform, that may include a "cited by" or "times cited" icon on the page.

Backward citation searching looks back at the research the author cites in their work in the form of a bibliography, which is generally found at the very end of a publication. 

Looking at both sources that cite the work after publication, and works cited by the author in the publication are great ways to both evaluate the source as a whole, and find other relates sources for your research. 

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