« Previous step: Creating your Bibliography

Once you have composed the research questions in Phase 1 of your PAT you must find resources that contain information regarding each research question. These sources must be evaluated, the intention is that you ensure that your research is based on “quality” information. This is an example of where planning ahead is important: you won’t be able to evaluate the authority of the author if you could not discover the author of a source that you have used!

In this post:

  1. Authority
  2. Currency
  3. Accuracy
  4. Objectivity
  5. Coverage
  6. Looking under every stone…

You are required to evaluate 3 of your sources — two website sources and one source that is not a website. You must do this for the same 3 questions for which you did your Full Source Details.

The Learner Guide provides you with the following guidelines on how to capture the information in a table:

QUESTION 3: Website source
AuthorityThe ‘validity’ or ‘credentials’ of the publisher or author(s):
who is this person: a scientist, doctor, professor?
CurrencyThe date on which the material was published or updated
AccuracyThe correspondence of the information with other sources
ObjectivityAny presence of prejudice, bias, skewing of information, et cetera
CoverageHow extensively the material covers the topic
Example of table for evaluating research sources.

1. Authority

If you were reading an article on the latest treatment for cancer, what would you expect the author to be? A hairdresser?

I have nothing against hairdressers, but if I were looking for information about cancer treatment, I would be looking for something written by a medical doctor, or more specifically: an oncologist. The authority criteria require that you comment on the author of the source, e.g: “Isobel Katherine Stevens, M.D. is a surgical oncologist at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, Seattle, Washington.”

2. Currency

If you were researching the latest CPU technology, would you bother with sources written last year? No chance: the latest AMD Ryzen chips are game-changers and are only just being released (Intel is so “last year”). For an article on such an article, you might write: “The article is current, having been written this month, and details the very latest developments regarding CPUs”.

If you look at the bigger picture, think about how evaluating the currency of the source relates to recording the date the source was published and the date you accessed it: if I read your report in September next year and the COVID pandemic is over but your report says that no spectators are allowed to attend sporting events in South Africa, I will quickly be able to refer to the date your source was published and the date you accessed that source to understand that at the time that you wrote the report, the information was correct.

3. Accuracy

Compare your source to other sources dealing with the same subject material. If the information differs from information in other sources it is possible that your source is inaccurate.

For example, if your source is presenting evidence that the Earth is flat, a quick Google should provide plenty of evidence the Earth is in fact a spherical shape. You would then write about the source in question: “The article presents views which are contradictory to facts presented in other sources covering this area of geography”.

4. Objectivity

A well-researched piece should provide an objective, balanced view of the subject matter. Subjective language will often contain emotive words and is an indication that bias is present. It is best to look for an article that is balanced, presenting all sides of a story. The article should not favour one view or opinion over another.

The article should be factual, that is, statements should be backed up with facts and data.

5. Coverage

Does the article deal with one specific aspect of the topic you are researching, or does it deal with many aspects of your topic?

Grade 12s: an article discussing IoT, in general, could be described as “broad or general coverage/discussion of the topic”. An article dealing specifically with the CPUs or other technologies being used specifically to further IoT would be “coverage focused specifically on specialised technology related to IoT”.

6. Looking under every stone…

If you cannot find information such as the author of the website, consult the post Capturing full source details for your PAT for some tips!

Next step: Summarise your sources »

By MisterFoxOnline

CAT Educator

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