Once you have defined your area of research, found the sources that you need, and have started to make notes, you will need to critically analyse the sources that you have selected. A source can be anything that informs your research. Usually we think of books and websites, but it is important to be aware of the kinds of sources and the kinds of information they provide. For example, if you are interested in what people thought of an artwork at the time it was made, it would be interesting to investigate journals and reviews made at the time – some of the most influential artworks were not critically acclaimed at the time they were made. If you are researching how national identity is portrayed in film, it would clearly be a good idea to refer to the actual films as well as books about them.
Things to consider when evaluating sources:
- Check the publication date to know the context of the information
- What methods does the author use to investigate the topic?
- Does the writer have recognised expertise in this field?
- Is the source biased in any way? (This is not always a negative but will affect how you read)
- Is it readable? Some texts are very dense and difficult to negotiate – try and find a text that you are comfortable reading. For example, it is often more efficient to read about a theory rather than the original source of that theory.
Next section: cite