3.5.1 Critically evaluating documents: the PROMPT system
An excellent way to critically analyse a document is to use the PROMPT system. The PROMPT system indicates what factors you should consider when evaluating a document. PROMPT stands for:
- Presentation – is the publication easy to read?
- Relevance – how will the publication 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 publication carried out appropriately?
- Provenance – who is the author and how was the document published?
- Timeliness – is the publication still relevant, or has it been superseded?
By thinking about each of these factors when you read a publication in depth, you will be able to provide a deeper, more critical analysis of each publication. A final tip for critical reading is to note down your overall impressions and any 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 publication; this in turn will guide your research.