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ENGL 3010: Introduction to Literary Studies: Evaluating Sources

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Evaluation Criteria

How new (or old) is the information? 
Is the information out of date for your topic?
Does the information address your topic, thesis and supporting arguments? 
Is it at an appropriate level (i.e not too elementary or too advanced?)
Who wrote the information? Individual or institution? Are they credible?
Are the author's credentials or qualifications given?
Is there author's contact information?
Is the information consistent with other sources? 
Does the information seem biased?
Are there spelling or grammar mistakes?
Why was the information created? To persuade? To educate? To sell something?
Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions clear?
Are there political, cultural, institutional or personal biases and opinions?

Critical Reading

Critical Analysis 

by Elisabetta LeJune

The purpose for writing a critique is to evaluate somebody's work (a book, an essay, a movie, a painting...) in order to increase the reader's understanding of it. A critical analysis is subjective writing because it expresses the writer's opinion or evaluation of a text. Analysis means to break down and study the parts. Writing a critical paper requires two steps: critical reading and critical writing.

Critical reading:

  1. Identify the author's thesis and purpose
  2. Analyze the structure of the passage by identifying all main ideas
  3. Consult a dictionary or encyclopedia to understand material that is unfamiliar to you
  4. Make an outline of the work or write a description of it
  5. Write a summary of the work
  6. Determine the purpose which could be
    • To inform with factual material
    • To persuade with appeal to reason or emotions
    • To entertain (to affect people's emotions)
  7. Evaluate the means by which the author has accomplished his purpose
  • If the purpose is to inform, has the material been presented clearly, accurately, with order and coherence?
  • If the purpose is to persuade, look for evidence, logical reasoning, contrary evidence
  • If the purpose was to entertain, determine how emotions are affected: does it make you laugh, cry, angry? Why did it affect you?

Consider the following questions: How is the material organized? Who is the intended audience? What are the writer's assumptions about the audience? What kind of language and imagery does the author use?

Peer Review

Peer review (also called Refereeing) is the process an author goes through to get an article published in a journal.

Let's say you are an expert in a particular field. You write an article and submit it to a journal. Your article goes through several steps before it may or may not be published.

1. Your article is read and scrutinized by colleagues who are experts in your field. This editorial review is done by your peers in the field.

2. Your article is judged by this panel of expert peers and they act as referees, deciding whether your article adds to the literature or enhances the knowledge within your field.

3. If your article passes this editorial peer review / refereeing, your article is published.

4. All the articles in that journal go through the same process so that journal is peer reviewed / refereed.