Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Course & Subject Guides

Research Process Demystified @ Pitt

A guide for students beginning the research paper and project process.

Evaluate your Results and Sources: Use the PROVEN model: purpose, relevance, objectivity, verifiability, expertise, and newness

The process of evaluating an online source includes examining the source itself and examining other sources by:

  • Checking for previous work. Has someone already fact-checked this source?
  • Finding the original source. Who originally published the information and why?
  • Reading laterally. What do other people say about this publication and author?
  • Circling back. How can you revise your original search to yield better results?
  • Checking your own emotions. Is your own bias affecting your evaluation?

 

Scholarly Sources

  • Produced by experts or researchers in a specialized field or discipline.
  • Purpose is to present new or unpublished research.
  • Articles reviewed by experts for scholarly content or quality, or
  • peer reviewed
  • Written using formal language and structure: abstract,
  • literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, footnotes, endnotes and/or bibliography.
  • Articles always cite source information.
  • May include tables or graphs to support research.

Three Types of Sources

There are three types of sources:

1) Primary Sources

  • Original materials that provide direct evidence or first-hand testimony of a participant or eyewitness of an event or topic.
  • Primary sources can be contemporary sources created at the time when the event occurred (e.g., letters and newspaper articles) or later (such as, memoirs and oral history interviews).
  • Primary sources may be published or unpublished.  Unpublished sources are unique materials (e.g., family papers) often referred to as archives and manuscripts.
  • What constitutes a primary source varies by discipline. How the researcher uses the source generally determines whether it is a primary source or not.

2) Secondary Sources

  • Works that interpret, analyze, and discuss the evidence provided by primary sources (e.g., scholarly books and articles).
  • Secondary sources are generally a second-hand account or observation at least one step removed from an event.
  • Secondary sources, however, can be considered to be primary sources depending on the context of their use. For example, Ken Burns' documentary of the Civil War is a secondary source for Civil War researchers, but a primary source for those studying documentary filmmaking.

3) Tertiary Sources

  • Books or articles that synthesize or distill primary and secondary sources, often in a convenient, easy-to-read form (e.g., dictionaries, encyclopedias, indexes, and textbooks).