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Whenever you write anything that is intended to convince, inform, or advocate you should think about your audience, and the type(s) of sources that audience finds convincing. For many of the papers your write in school, your audience is an academic -- a university professor.
As a student, you have one major advantage -- your audience is readily available. If you have questions about the types of sources they would like to see, you can (and should) ask!
This is especially true when you are writing in an unfamiliar field. Different disciplines have different expecations when it comes to evidence. Don't assume that because you know your way around scholarly sources in one field, that another field will work the same.
Here are a few general principles to guide you:
The goal of academic argument or discourse is inquiry.
Inquiry means that there are always more questions.
Academic audiences are likely to find conclusions that are based on rigorous, carefully conducted research the most convincing.
The credentials and authority of the author are also important in academic discourse.
In many fields, there is general consensus about the "best" or most important journals and publishers.
Are scholarly sources biased? The short answer is, yes. The longer answer is - it depends. But many academics will tell you that every source is biased on some level!
As an college student, you are expected to:
To do this, you will need to use sources by authors with opinions, agendas and points of view.
Step 1: Identify the bias
|Find out as much as you can about the author/creator/publisher of the source.||
|Do not rely on what they tell you -- do some additional research.|
Step 2. Analyze your rhetorical situation
|Think about your message -- what claim(s) are you making?||Example||Think about your evidence -- what will help you make that claim?|
Are you making a claim about a fact?
|Oregon State University was founded in 1868. (Source: OSU Website)||
Are you making a claim that there is consensus around an issue?
|Food safety experts agree that food must be cooked long enough and hot enough to kill harmful bacteria to be safe. (Source: USDA)||
|Are you making a claim about a specific perspective on a topic?
|Organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that focus on digital civil liberties, believe that real-name policies like Facebook's put certain groups at significant risk. (Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation)||
Step 3. Integrate your analysis into your paper or presentation
Peer reviewed articles are research articles that have been evaluated and approved by other experts in the field before being accepted for publication in a journal. They almost all follow a predictable pattern and contain the following elements:
1. AUTHOR: The author is always listed with the credentials that identify the author's expertise, such as university or research affiliation. The author often holds a Ph.D. in the subject area of the article. Contrast this to an author who writes on many different topics (like in a magazine or newspaper).
2. LANGUAGE: The article language tends to be formal and technical, and is particular to the discipline in which it is written. It is geared to other researchers in the same subject. Contrast this with popular articles that are written at an informal and basic level for easy understanding by the general public.
3. CONTENT: There is an abstract at the beginning of the article which summarizes the content. The articles almost always follow the pattern of having introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusion, and bibliography sections. News articles, scientific letters and book reviews do not follow this pattern.
4. ORIGINAL DATA: Usually, original data will be presented in charts and graphs illustrating the results of experiments. Contrast this to a news feature, which pulls together results and ideas from other researchers' work. EXCEPTION - Reviews can also be peer reviewed. While they do summarize other researchers' work, authors of a review also add their own summary and repackage the work in a new way to help demonstrate something that is original.
Reading a scholarly article can seem daunting at first. Scholarly articles are long and have a lot of data. If you break down the article into components, it will make it easier to read and understand.
For a quick overview, click on the link below to see an example of a scholarly article and its parts.
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