Critically evaluating texts
During your studies at Södertörn University (SH) or the Swedish Red Cross University College (RKH) you’ll need to search and evaluate different types of texts, for example scholarly articles and other research publications for your essay. To evaluate if the text is scholarly and trustworthy, we recommend using these questions:
- Author: Is the author an expert within the field? Does he/she have a relevant academic degree and where is he/she employed?
- Target audience: For which group of readers is the text intended – for example scholars, students or the public?
- Aim: Is the purpose to present the results from a scholarly study? Is the text objective?
- Context: Is the text published at a university or in a peer reviewed scholarly journal?
- Publication date: When was the text published or updated? Is it the latest edition? Is the information up-to-date?
- Structure: Is the text well structured? Does it describe the purpose, methodology and conclusions of the text?
- References: Does the text contain references to other scholarly texts? Who has linked or referred to the text?
- Review: Has the text been reviewed by other researchers before being published, so called peer review?
Scholarly articles are articles in scholarly journals that present research results. It may, for example, apply to new, empirical results (original articles) or overviews of previous research (review articles).
The articles are usually written by scholars, the target audience is other scholars and the peer review is done by scholars in the field. Compared with, for example, newspapers or popular journals, the articles are often long, and they contain terms common to the subject area of the journal.
The articles can be written differently depending on the subject, methodology, and what type of article it is. They often contain the following parts:
- Abstract - A short summary of the article.
- Key words - Central concepts that describe the contents.
- Introduction - Background information, previous research, the study's aim and research questions.
- Methodology - A review of the research methodology, the selection of materials and more.
- Results - A presentation of the research results.
- Discussion - An interpretation and conclusions of the results. Reconnects to previous research.
- List of references - A list of all the documents referred to by the author.
Peer review means that experienced scholars within the journal’s subject area review submitted articles and evaluate their scholarly quality before publication. They recommend if an article should be published, rejected or revised. The review is often performed anonymously, meaning that the authors don't know who reviewed their articles. Sometimes the articles are anonymous to the reviewer too.
Most scholarly journals use the peer review process but not all of them. To find out how a journal reviews their articles, go to the journal’s website or check if it’s mentioned in the article. In the Ulrichsweb database you can find information about journals, for example if it contains peer reviewed articles. Ulrichsweb is available for students and staff at SH. Go to Ulrichsweb via Databases.
Remember that even if the journal mostly contains peer reviewed articles, it may also contain other non-scholarly texts, such as book reviews, debate articles etc. Therefore, you always need to evaluate the article by, for example, examining its aim and structure.
Other types of texts
As a student you will encounter different types of texts. During your studies they can be useful in different ways. Some texts present results from research, while other can be used for inspiration or topic overview. Here are some examples.