A Word on Reliability
Whether you are reading a scholarly or popular resource, you must first assess the trustworthiness of the source and the validity of the study. The following list of criteria can be used to quickly evaluate the trustworthiness of the source (Rentz & Lentz, 2021):
- Purpose. Why was the information provided? To explain? To inform? To persuade? To sell? To share? What are the provider’s biases? Who is the intended audience? What point of view does the site take? Could it possibly be ironic, a satire, or a parody?
- Qualifications. What are the credentials of the information provider? What is the nature of any sponsorship? Is contact information provided? Is it accurate? Is it complete—name, email address, street address, and phone number? Is the information well written, clear, and organized?
- Validity. Where else can the information provided be found? Is the information from the original source? Has the information been synthesized or abstracted accurately and in the correct context? Is the information timely? When was it created? When was it posted? How long has the site existed? Is it updated regularly? Do the links work? Has the site received any ratings or reviews?
- Structure. How is the site organized, designed, and formatted? Does its structure provide a particular emphasis? Does its coverage sufficiently meet the needs of its intended audience?
Scholarly vs Popular Sources
A scholarly source includes a thorough investigation into a specific research question. Scholarly works include a review of other sources related to the topic and is “peer-reviewed” or evaluated by other scholars in the same field.
The following video from the Carnegie Vincent Library does a nice job of differentiating between scholarly and popular sources.
Finding Scholarly Sources
The following resources offer tips for using the McIntyre Library databases to conduct research, including the first two that will be most helpful for finding scholarly sources:
- The Library Search tutorial provides instructions for using the online catalog to access digital materials.
- The Business Lib Guide includes a list of popular business databases, along with contact information for the MBA program’s librarian.
- You can also use the online chat feature on the McIntyre Library website to speak with a reference librarian if you need assistance finding resources.
- Make sure you are logged in when you search the library databases to maximize access to the results.
- Start your search early because you may find the perfect article in your search only to learn you need to complete an inter-library loan request to view the article. These requests typically take 2-3 days.
Try starting with a general library search and use a specific search term to help you find relevant results. For example, if your SWOT analysis results show that you have a weakness in “time management,” search for that first. Follow that with searches using related terms, such as “overcoming procrastination” or “setting priorities.” As you read articles, watch for other terminology the authors use and search those terms as well.
Also, try using the filters on the left side to narrow your results. Select “Peer-reviewed” to ensure you are getting scholarly sources. If you need the article immediately, select “Online Resources” from the list. As you find articles, watch the right sidebar for related recommendations as well. Depending on the topic you are researching, filtering your results to show more recent articles might also be a good strategy.
Reading a Scholarly Article
Follow these steps to efficiently read scholarly journal articles:
- Read the Abstract
- Find the research question, usually presented in the Introduction section of the article, but may also be available in the Abstract. How does the research question in the article align with what you are seeking?
- Read the Conclusion section. If the article seems like it will be useful, go back to the Results and Discussion/Analysis sections of the article in detail.
- Skim the Methodology section to ensure the validity of the study.
- Read through the References section to identify other resources that might be useful to you.
- As you read the article, take notes to summarize the main points illustrated. Write down questions you still have as you read. Draw your own conclusions or interpretations from the article.
The following video from the University of Minnesota library provides a guide for reading scholarly articles and offers questions to ask yourself as you read each section and how to find main points in the article. The video offers a slightly different order in which to read sections of a scholarly article than outlined above.
Rentz, K. and Lentz, P. (in press, 2021). Business Communication: A Problem-Solving Approach, 2e. New York: McGraw-Hill, p. 394.