Reading and Evaluating Sources
To do effective research, we have to go beyond thinking that more sources are always better. Instead, we should be careful to seek the most relevant, useful and compelling sources that fit our research needs.
When you set out to analyze an essay or article, consider these questions to help you summarize (annotate):
- Is the author writing to explain or writing to persuade?
- Is this a primary, secondary or tertiary source?
- What is the thesis or central idea of the text?
- Who is the intended audience?
- What questions does the author address?
- How does the author structure the text? What are the key parts of the text?
- How do the key parts of the text relate to the thesis?
- How does the author convince the readers of their argument’s merit?
- What evidence is provided in support of the thesis?
The answers to all of these questions would constitute a summary of that text, which is the content of an annotation (if you are doing an annotated bibliography).
If you are using this source in a research paper or any other paper that requires you to draw perspectives from a variety of sources, you would also want to ask some synthesis questions as you read:
- Does this author’s perspective sound like any other authors’ perspectives? How so?
- Does it differ from other authors’ perspectives? In what way(s)?