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Public Administration Research: Evaluate Sources

Covers several areas of public administration research including traditional research for literature reviews, policy research, and legislative histories.

Should I Use This Source?

After you find a source, you still need to decide whether you want to use it in your assignment. Ask yourself the following questions before you commit to reading a full book or article:

How current is the source? If your topic requires up to date information, you need to pay careful attention to the date of publication.

  • Articles - Check the date of the journal (in the database where you found the article or at the top or bottom of the full text article)
  • Books - Check the copyright date (in the catalog, or on the back of the title page)
  • Websites - Check for "Last Updated" on web pages or for a "Posted" date at the beginning or end of online articles and blog posts

Who is the author? Look for a brief biography of the person or a description of the organization. Most scholarly articles will simply identify the universities where the authors work.

How accurate is the source? Are they citing their sources? Look for bibliographies or footnotes. On websites there may also be links to their sources - dead links are a bad sign.

How relevant is the source? Does the information actually fit your topic or would you be forcing it to work? Quickly read these sections to determine this:

  • Articles - Abstract, Introduction, Conclusion
  • Books - Table of Contents, First and Last paragraphs of chapters which seem useful

How Credible is This Source?

The Continuum of Credibility

Can you trust the information in the sources you located during your research? How skeptical should you be of the source and its author?

Evaluating Websites

There are a few things you should consider when evaluating a website's credibility that you normally don't worry about with books and articles:

Spelling and Grammar

  • If a site is full of typos, don't use it as a source.

Dead Links

  • If many links on the website lead nowhere, no one is making an effort to maintain the site.

Type of Website

  • .edu = educational institution, like a university’s website
  • .gov = United States government website
  • .org = organizational website, often for a non-profit organization but not always
  • .com & .net  = commercial website and most likely the least credible of the websites