How to assess the credibility of a source taken for Literature Review?

Literature review is done on the basis of various primary and secondary sources. Researchers usually take help of government documents (research reports), popular media, books, journals, conference papers, electronic database, peer-reviewed articles, dissertations, theses, magazines, newspapers, encyclopedia, dictionaries etc. It usually focuses on the past five years' development made in the respective field.

After doing a deep study of a research area, the information is synthesized in the form of Literature Review. As literature review forms the cornerstone of the intended research, it is, therefore, really important to evaluate the reliability of these sources. The information needs to be critically analysed and then judiciously used.

So, how should you decide whether a source of information should be a part of your literature review or not? For this, you need to evaluate the sources on the following parameters -

A – Author's Credibility

(i) Qualifications & Expertise – First and foremost, it is important to note that the author you are citing is a specialist and has a considerable amount of expertise in their area of research. And this can be easily assessed by his educational background and the academic institutions he is/was associated with. Essentially, a PhD holder should be considered as a benchmark of credibility. Independent qualified researchers are also considered eligible.

(ii) Academic and Professional achievements – The next important thing to take into consideration is the author's achievements. You need to check if the author managed to get his research papers published in reputed (peer reviewed) journals? You can also check the citation databases to check exactly how many times has his work been cited.

B – Facts Quoted

(i) Validity – Another significant aspect to be kept in mind is the validity of the facts included in the literature review. As the field of research and development is dynamic, there is a high probability that any recent development in the respective field could refute the mentioned facts. In such cases, the whole purpose of doing a literature review becomes unsuccessful. Therefore, always make sure to check the edition and publication date of the source to ensure that the information is latest.
(ii) Biasness – The author's perspective regarding his statements needs to be analysed thoroughly to look up for any hints of biasness. It is essential to assess the purpose behind the author's respective statement. Is it a personal opinion/practical suggestion/pragmatic preference or a mere assumption? If the author fails to express himself in an impartial and neutral way, then this resource, very clearly, is not to be trusted for your literature review.

C – Location

The sources used for your literature review should always come from a reliable and trusted resource.

(i) You can always rely on highly trusted resources such as university libraries or journal databases.
(ii) There are a lot of online journals which are peer-reviewed, so you can trust their credibility too. If the information has been included from an online source, then do pay attention to its domain name to see if it has a .com, .org, .edu in its address as such domain names are trustworthy. Additionally, you can also trust Google Scholar. It basically includes conference presentations, technical reports and journal articles related to a diverse range of subjects.

Category : Literature Review
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