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Literature Review: Evaluating sources and critical appraisal of literature

This guide will define a literature review, describe the process of writing a literature review and examine where to search for literature

Evaluating literature

While you are searching for relevant information about your topic you will need to think about the accuracy of the information, whether the information is from a reputable source, whether it is objective and current. The basic criteria for assessing information and questions you might want to think about are listed below. 

Accuracy        

  • Is the information reliable?
  • Is the information error-free?
  • Is the information based on proven facts?
  • Can the information be verified against other reliable sources?

Authority       

  • Who is the author?
  • Does he or she have the qualifications to speak/write on that topic?
  • Is the author affiliated with a reputable university or organization in this subject field?
  • Is the source peer reviewed or refereed?

Objectivity     

  • What is the intended purpose of the information?
  • Is the information fact or opinion?
  • Is the information biased?

Currency        

  • When was the information published?
  • Is the information current or out-dated?
  • Does currency matter in this topic?

Coverage        

  • Does the information covered meet your information needs?
  • Does it provide basic or in depth coverage

Further Reading:

Critical appraisal or critiquing the literature

Reading critically

The Sage Research Methods Online database (SRMO) is a good source of full text electronic Books, chapters, and articles on a range of research methodologies.  It includes a wide range of items in relation to literature review processes, and importantly how to read critically.

Examples:

Goodwyn, A. & Stables, A. W. (2004). Learning to Read Critically: Learning to read critically in language and literacy : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781849209410

Quinton, S. & Smallbone, T. (2006). How to read critically. In Sage Study Skills: Postgraduate research in business (pp. 81-96). : SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781849209564.n6