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Literature Reviews in the Social Sciences: Evaluate your sources

A guide on conducting & writing literature reviews for students in the Social Sciences.

How to evaluate your sources

These are some factors that you need to keep in mind when selecting sources for your literature review:

  • Scholarly: Sources that you discuss in your literature review have to be scholarly--articles from peer-reviewed journals, books from university (or other well-respected) publishers, etc.  You can contact me if you're not sure about a source.
  • Date of publication: Old doesn't mean 'bad', necessarily, but you just have to look at the date and think critically about how that might affect the author's treatment of the topic.  You also may want to limit your literature review to a certain time period.
  • Relevance: This might be the most important factor.  Is the source truly relevant to your topic, or is it tangential?  You will have to argue for its' relevance when you write your review. When thinking about relevance, also think about how the persuasiveness of the argument and the value it adds to the body of literature
  • Selectivity: You need to be very selective about the sources you include.  This can't be overstated!
  • Authority:  Who wrote the source?  What are their credentials?  
  • Objectivity: Make sure to look out for the author's bias.