Writers, students and scholars often use articles to support their research and their writing. When assessing an article in order to gather information for research, it is important that it be based on reliable data and valid information. Although there is no way of knowing whether an article is 100 percent accurate, there are methods to determine the overall validity of a piece.
Check the source where the research article originated. Peer-reviewed journals, academic publications, nonbiased news journals and academic websites are excellent places to find research articles. Ensure that the publication is not slanted, and that both the article and the source are free of opinions. Articles that include the opinion of the author and that do not consider opposing viewpoints are considered biased. Be aware of the date of the research article, as sometimes facts become outdated and are no longer accurate or valid.
Citations and Evidence
Look for citations and references throughout the article. Valid articles should include sources within the text and have a clear reference page at the end. Is the author providing evidence to back up statements and facts? Check a few of the sources on the reference page to make sure that the references are solid. For example, if there is a scientific trial presented as evidence, do a search on the source as listed on the reference page, and make sure the information matches up.
Verify Author Credentials
Research the author to ensure that he is a professional in his field of study. Check his credentials and education, and ensure he has a solid reputation. Pay closer attention to the source, citations and evidence if there is no author. For example, websites often have articles but do not list an author. When considering these articles, ensure that they are from a government agency or educational institution, or are peer reviewed. Peer reviewed articles are those in which the content has already been viewed and credibility established by professionals other than the author.
Cross Checking Sources
Check the information you are using against another source beyond the reference page to ensure the validity of the research. For example, if the piece includes specific dates or facts, check those dates and facts against a second reliable source. If the facts do not match, there is a good chance the research article is not entirely valid. Prefer primary sources when possible over secondary sources. Primary sources are the original source of the information before interpretation by another author. For example, a primary scientific source would come from the person or institution that performed the research, rather than an encyclopedia entry about the research.
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