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ENGL 015: Rhetoric and Composition (Oberg)

Research guide for the "changing identity" paper in Prof. Oberg's ENGL 015 class at Penn State Beaver. This guide can help you learn different definitions of "identity" and find high quality sources for your paper.

What makes a source "scholarly"?

You don't have scholarly works without "scholars"--people who are experts in their field and dedicated to study and advancing knowledge of the subject. Typically they have earned an advanced degree (often a PhD) in their field and work for an organization dedicated to education and research, like a university or sometimes a "think tank." It's always a good idea to "Google" your authors to find out what makes them experts. 

Scholars typically publish their research in special "scholarly journals." As young experts in your field, it's important to be exposed to these journals during your studies. Scholarly articles are typically organized in the same basic fashion, which helps make them easier for you to recognize. Scholarly journals are one of three main types of publications, including popular (magazines and newspapers) and trade (for people who work in a specific field).

However, scholars also publish other kinds of works, such as books or even a professional blog or website, that may also be a scholarly/academic source for this assignment.

Evaluating Information

Any time you look for information on a topic (whether personal or for educational research), you should always evaluate the information.

  • Is this good information (could be verified elsewhere)?
  • Does it go into enough detail for my needs?
  • Does it answer the questions I have about the subject/tell me something new/support or challenge my perspective?
  • What makes the author an authority?
  • When was it published/created?
  • Is it good enough for college-level research?
  • Will my teacher approve of this source?

One way to quickly evaluate the information in front of you is to consider the "3 C's":

Credibility (their expertise makes your paper more authoritative)

  • Who is the author? (okay to "Google" them)
  • What makes them an expert on this subject?
  • Is the author's intention to educate (share knowledge) or persuade?

Content

  • Is it good enough for college-level research? Or is it too basic? Too "scholarly" (assume a level of understanding beyond your grasp)?
  • Does it provide you with new knowledge?
  • Does it support or challenge what you already know about the subject?

Currency

  • Is it current enough for your research needs? Or could you likely find something more recent?
  • Does it provide you with an accurate snapshot of the time? Fill in blanks of recent events? Provide a history or synthesis of relevant information?
  • Remember, currency is relative:
    • Newspapers = published every day or weekly
    • Magazines = published weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly
    • Scholarly Journals = published quarterly (on average)
    • Books = take a year or more to write, publish, and distribute
    • Statistics = often take a year or more to collect, analyze, publish, and distribute

CRAAP Test

You might have also learned about the CRAAP test for evaulating information. That works, too!

Currency
Relevance
Accuracy
Authority
Purpose