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EH 102_Noletto: Researching Community

This guide provides a quick reference for a variety of resources, tools, and strategies to aid you while exploring your topics. Use this to get started, but we encourage you to reach out to a librarian to learn more and workshop your topics as needed!

Evaluating Sources: Credible, Academic, and Popular Voices

In general, it's important to consider the rhetorical triangle when evaluating sources for use in a research paper.



Consider a source's credibility and purpose through this three-faceted method of evaluation. What is the EthosPathos, and Logos of the piece? These three terms, respectively, essentially refer to the techniques used to sway the reader or make a point: the author or voice, the intended audience, and the message/text. The Ethos is all about the credibility of the author of the piece. Do they have professional credentials, experience in a field, and/or academic certifications to lend some credibility to their work? Logos refers to the flow and logic of the argument/text of the piece. While an author may have a credible background, do they also back this up with an evidence-based, organized flow of information that attempts to convey fact to inform rather than rhetoric to appeal to emotion? The Pathos comes into play at this point, where you must consider the rhetoric and style of the piece closely. Is the information presented with charged rhetoric that has an intent to leverage emotion over reason, appealing to more of a popular/public opinion over academic reason? 

There is room for a variety of writing styles and purposes in the content published on pretty much any topic you may encounter. When you find a website or article, don't necessarily rule out any information as bad information. Sometimes a more rhetorical magazine article can grant helpful insights into the way the average person feels about touchy subjects such as dealing with pandemics or economic instabilities. What matters is that you understand what you are reading, and include sources appropriately according the the needs and requirements of your paper. Focus on finding more academic sources for your evidence when possible. 

The following sections contain a few videos that briefly discuss some of the more common types of resources you will encounter throughout the research process, such as scholarly articles vs. magazine articles. Most periodical articles are known as secondary sources, offering interpretation and analysis of primary source data such as raw statistics or laboratory studies. Did you know there is a third type of source called a tertiary source? Watch the following videos to learn more about how all source types can inform the research process!