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Library Assignment

Critically Analyzing Information Sources

Content Analysis

There are a number of ways to analyze the content of a source.  If it is a book, read the preface to get an idea of the author's intention for the book. Scan the table of contents and the index to get a broad overview of the material it covers. Read the chapters that specifically address your topic. For articles, it is important to read the entire article and not just the abstract. Examine the bibliography of both articles and books to get an idea of the scope of the author's research.

  • Intended Audience - What type of audience is the author addressing, general or specialized? Is the source appropriate for your needs?
  • Objective Reasoning - Is the information covered fact, opinion or propoganda? Facts can be verified. Is the information provided in the source supported by evidence? Are the ideas and arguments more or less in line with other works on the topic? Sources with radical views must be examined with particular care. Is the author's point of view objective and impartial.
  • Coverage - Does the work update other sources, substantiate other materials you have read, or add new information? Ddoes the work extensively or marginally cover your topic? Is the material primary or secondary in nature?
  • Writing Style - Are the main points clearly presented? Is the text easy to read?
  • Evaluative Reviews - Check published reviews to see how other scholars in the field have evaluated the work. Some sources of reviews include the Book Review Index, Book Review Digest, or Periodical Abstracts.

This information has been taken from "Critically Analyzing Information Sources," http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill26.htm.

Annotated Bibliography - A Definition

nAn annotated bibliography is an organized list of citations to sources, each of which is followed by a brief note or "annotation."

The length of a descriptive annotation should be between 50-150 words. 

Annotations are written in paragraph form.

Annotations do one or more of the following:

  1. Describe the content and focus of the book or article
  2. Suggest the source's usefulness to your research
  3. Evaluate the source's methodology, conclusions, or reliability
  4. Record your reactions to the source 

 

A Sample Annotated Bibliography

Waite, L. J., Goldschneider, F. K., & Witsberger, C. (1986). Nonfamily living and the erosion of traditional family orientations among young adults. American Sociological Review, 51, 541-554.

The authors, researchers at the Rand Corporation and Brown University, use data from the National Longitudinal Surveys of Young Women and Young Men to test their hypothesis that nonfamily living by young adults alters their attitudes, values, plans, and expectations, moving them away from their belief in traditional sex roles. They find their hypothesis strongly supported in young females, while the effects were fewer in studies of young males. Increasing the time away from parents before marrying increased individualism, self-sufficiency, and changes in attitudes about families. In contrast, an earlier study by Williams cited below shows no significant gender differences in sex role attitudes as a result of nonfamily living.