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Political Science - Bradford Campus: Evaluating Information

This guide is designed to help students enrolled in Political Science with Dr. de Vries-Jordan with the research for their assignments and papers.

Evaluating Print Resources

One of the most difficult parts about conducting research in the political sciences is the abundance of books written about public affairs topics that are intended to be read by the general public, but which do not necessarily constitute a scholarly resource.  The chart below can help you try to distinguish between these two types of books.  (Note: These characteristics apply to other types of publications as well, including articles from periodicals.) <from>

  Behind the Oval Office Clinton Legacy
Questions to Ask Yourself:

Book Intended for the
General Public

Book Intended for a
Scholarly Audience

WHO is the author?

Author may be a popular media figure or journalist.

Often lack credentials such as advanced degrees or experience with the subject matter.

Author is a reliable scholar in a particular field

Credentials are listed, such as degrees, experience, previous scholarly publications; or affiliation with a scholarly institution, such as a university.

WHO is the intended audience? Anyone interested in this topic Students, researchers, other scholars
WHO is the publisher? Usually a commercial publisher or other popular source Often the publisher is associated with an academic institution (such as Oxford University Press), or known for producing scholarly materials (such as Greenhaven Press or Routledge).

WHAT is the content?

WHY was this book written?

Content is often meant to entertain or present opinions about a certain topic; author's bias is often very evident without much evidence behind it. 

May also include the author's own personal/firsthand accounts of events discussed in the book.

Focuses on a certain field or area of study, often very specific.

If opinions are presented, they are backed up with empirical data/research that the author has conducted.

WHERE is the evidence?

Limited or no bibliography/references

Lack of data (charts, graphs, research studies) to back up opinions presented

Extensive bibliography and/or footnotes which show research to back up the scholar's assertions

Suggestions for further reading for additional information on the subject