5.2.3 Evaluating information and making notes
Using abstracts and summaries, check the relevance of the resources for your inquiry. Download the papers that you plan to read and which will help towards clarifying and situating the research questions that you have posed for your inquiry.
The Open University’s Library has developed the PROMPT criteria to help in evaluating resources for quality and relevance. Thecriteria (along with an illustrative example of the sort of questions) are:
- Provenance – who is the author and how was the resource published?
- Relevance – how will the resource help address your research aim?
- Objectivity – what is the balance between evidence and opinion? Does the evidence seem balanced? How was the research funded?
- Method – was the research in the resource carried out appropriately?
- Presentation – is the resource easy to read?
- Timeliness – is the resource still relevant, or has it been superseded?
By thinking about each of the factors in PROMPT, you will be able to conduct a critical analysis of each resource. There are other criteria that you could use to evaluate the resources, such as 5Ws and the CRAAP test.
After you have identified the relevant resources, a tip for critical reading is to note down your overall impressions and any open questions you still have at the end. Keeping a list of such open questions can help you identify the gaps in the literature by noticing which questions were raised but not answered, by the resource.
A good literature review will have references from a number of different types of sources. As you read through the selected resources, using a literature review matrix can help in structured note-taking for each resource and to draw comparisons and similarities in findings and other research aspects across resources.