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Geographic Information Systems (GIS): Evaluating

This guide will help you find case studies & resources related to your GIS projects at the Holman Library & online.

Evidence: Know Your Level

Different types of publications can help you find specific kinds of information!

  • Scholarly or Peer-Reviewed or Academic Journals are good to find results of scientific or academic research. These will be research-based, but may be more theoretical, not "how-to" information.
  • Trade Journal Articles & Professional Books are good for finding news or recommendations written for practical, "hands-on" application on job-related issues written for professionals.
  • Popular publications are good for summarizing information on a topic for the general public. This can include popular books, news articles, or websites intended for "non-specialist" audiences.

Ask

Maybe it was easy to find, but is it good? 

Assess: Does this information belong in my academic project or is it .... CRAP?

Currency

  • How recent is the information?
  • If a website, how recently has it been updated?
  • Is it current enough for your topic? (Is this a  field with rapidly changing information?)

Reliability

  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion? Is  it balanced?
  • Does the creator provide citations or sources?
  • Can you verify the info elsewhere?

Authority / Accuracy

  • Can you find the credentials of the author or  creator of the information?
  • If a website, is a known, objective organization responsible for the information (example: .gov, .org, .edu domains)?
  • Are there obvious errors or typos?

Purpose / Point of View

  • Is the information fact or opinion?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Are there advertisements?
  • Is the creator/author trying to:
  • Sell you  something?
  • Inform you?
  • Entertain?
  • Persuade?  
  • What is the publisher’s interest (if any) in this  information? Can you determine if the publisher  has a political, religious, or other ideology to  promote?

Evaluating a Research Article

Evaluating Research Articles

Now that you understand the structure of an academic research article, use the elements of an article to help you evaluate its content.

Note: Not all research articles will include every section below, and may label some sections differently. For example, the "Introduction" section always is near the beginning of the article, but may go by different titles. The most important thing to look for is to make sure the article has the information you need-- if it is missing an introduction, description of methods, or final discussion/conclusion, it probably is not a research article (it might still be scholarly-- a review or theoretical piece-- but you have to decide if that is useful to you.)

Title:

  • Does the title describe the study clearly?
  • Do the keywords express the key concepts of the study?
  • Is the title clear and concise?
  • Are the types of participants mentioned?
  • Is the nature of the research listed?
  • Does this title set you up to understand what you are about to read? 
Abstract:
  • Is the purpose of the research clearly stated?
  • Is the methodology explained in sufficient detail?
  • Is the sample mentioned?
  • Is there a brief summary of the results?
  • Does the abstract give you an overview of the central argument of the article?
  • Does the abstract provide you with the information necessary to determine if you want to read the entire article? 
Introduction:
  • Does the author clearly identify the research problem or question?
  • Is the significance of the problem discussed and supported with statistics?
  • Do the authors use theory to provide a framework to support the study and guide the analysis?
  • Does the review of the literature seem complete, current, and appropriate?
  • Is the research cited current (within 5 years of the article publication date?)
  • Are there few to no direct quotes?
  • Is the purpose of the study clearly explained?
  • Is there a clearly stated research question or hypothesis?
  • Does the review lead logically to a hypothesis or research question?
  • Are conceptual definitions for key variables given?
  • Are all the facts cited?
  • Does the introduction leave you with an understanding of the problem?
Methods:
  • Is the sample clearly defined by size, relevant characteristics, etc?
  • Are the procedures for the sample selection explained?
  • Is the exact sample size mentioned?
  • Has informed consent been secured?
  • Does the sample type and size make sense for the purpose and scope of the study?
  • If the research is experimental, was an appropriate control group used?
  • Are the materials used to conduct the study or in data collection clearly described?
  • Are the scientific procedures thoroughly described and delineated chronologically?
  • Could someone replicate the study from the information provided?
  • Is the data analysis well-described and appropriate?
  • Do the authors include a sample of their study items or questions?
  • Does the research describe how the instrument is used (settings, protocols, etc.)?
  • Is there more than one instrument for gathering data?
  • Do the authors provide the sources of existing instruments?
  • Are the reliability and validity of the instrument/s discussed?
  • Are any limitations of the instrument/s discussed?
Note: Some research papers do not include a description of the methods, but instead 
include a reference to a source where such a description can be found. This is an
acceptable practice and does not affect the quality of the article. 

Results:

  • Was information easily understood or were sufficient explanations given?
  • Are results statistically significant?
  • Do results answer the research question or prove/disprove hypothesis?
  • Are the important results connected directly to the hypothesis? 
  • Do results stick to the findings and refrain from theorizing why they appear as they do?
  • Is the results section clearly written and well organized? 
Discussion:
  • If there was a hypothesis, was it accepted or rejected? 
  • Does discussion tie back to Literature Review?
  • Are the findings discussed in terms of the conceptual framework, research problem, 
  • and/or hypothesis? 
  • Are limitations discussed?
  • Are suggestions for further research appropriate and are they clearly stated? 
  • If predicted results were not found, is an explanation/s offered?
  • Are specific implications for practice, policy, and future research made?
Conclusion (not always present):
  • Are the results briefly restated? 
  • Do the conclusions follow from the results?
References:
  • Is the reference list sufficiently current? 
  • Do the works cited reflect the breadth of existing literature on the topic of the study? For example, does the works cited list compare favorably with the works cited for articles written on similar topics? 
  • Are citations used appropriately in the text? 
General Impressions:
  • Is the article well written and organized? 
  • Does the study address an important problem? 
  • What are the most important things you learned from this study? 
  • What do you see as the most compelling strengths of the study? 
  • How might this study be improved?
 

Adapted from:

  • King's College D. Leonard Corgan Library
  • Hudson-Barr, D. (2004). “Scientific inquiry: How to read a research article.” JSPN 9 (2), 70-72. 
  • Lunsford, T. R. and Lunsford, B. R. (1996). “Research forum: How to critically read a journal 
  •      research article.” JPO 8 (1), 24-31. 
  • Northern Essex Community College Libraries. (2003). “Elements of a research article.” 
  •      Retrieved December 20, 2004, from www.necc.mass.edu/departments/library/pdf/
  •      researcharticle.pdf
  • Rumrill, P., Fitzgerald, S., and Ware, M. (2000). “Guidelines for evaluating research articles.” 
  •      Work 14 (3), 257-61. 
  • Pryczak, F. (2005) Evaluating Research in Academic Journals, Pryczak Publishing
Credit goes to Prof. Joy Crawford at Green River Community College