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Academic reading: Evaluating texts

Evaluating texts

You have seen some ways to assess argumentation based on the validity of the argumentation itself, who the author is and strategies that authors could use to try to convince you of their opinion. The following checklists give you more tools to evaluate the reliability of texts. These tools can help you assess reliability in general, but also to determine whether or not a text that might be reliable is appropriate for use in your own work. This also covers issues of relevance. Tools at your disposal include:

  1. Authority: who is the author? Are they knowledgeable on the subject? What is their expertise and have they published more articles? But also, is the author writing on behalf of an organization, a university or are they unaffiliated?
  2. Accuracy: can you find similar information in other sources or does it contradict existing information? Does the author cite other reliable sources?
  3. Objectivity: is the information unbiased? Does the author present multiple views? Are all relevant data presented, even if they do not support an opposing view? Do you find support for the views?
  4. Coverage: how well does this information cover the topic? Does it go sufficiently into depth and does it discuss all aspects of the topic fully?
  5. Currency: was the information published recently enough to be reliable? Are the citations current enough?
  6. Audience: who was this information written for? Was it written for experts or more for the general public? How could this influence the content presented?


Have another look at the text about Millenials in the Workplace. Then answer the following questions about this article.

  1. Is the methodology used in the research described clearly? Does the author acknowledge any weaknesses in the methodology? Can you see any weaknesses?
  2. How strong is the evidence? Is there any obvious influence or bias?
  3. Are the interpretations made reasonable? Do they clearly link to the evidence presented?
  4. How does the study fit in with other research on the subject? Does this study support other research or does it contradict it?
  5. Am I prepared to support the author’s claims?


Tip: use this checklist when evaluating your own sources as well.

  1. The methodology is discussed on page 226 as of “In this article…” in the left column up to the subheading in the second column. It is qualitative research and discusses quite clearly which sources are used and why. The author acknowledges that popular literature is often not based on empirical evidence and that these sources are not necessarily endorsed by the authors. The information from these sources is applied to 5 areas (the numbers in the column on the right). A weakness might be that there is little empirical evidence and that the authors could have done more applied research.
  2. The text discusses various sources both from empirical papers and popular writing, but they clearly indicate which is the case. The author uses quite some hedging technique (should, may, this suggests) to indicate when evidence is not strong. There are no obvious biases. Frequent use of “however” also indicates that sources are evaluated critically or provides alternative views.
  3. Most claims are clearly linked to sources, many of which are relatively recent publications. It is also clear, with hedging devices, how reliable the author thinks this source/evidence is, for example by saying “If this claim is true…”. Every section clearly indicates what aspects still need to be researched further, indicating what gaps in knowledge remain.
  4. Most other sources seem to support the current study. On a few occasions, the author indicates that research may be contradictory, but in this case, an explanation is often presented. For example on page 233, right column just under the subheading “Although this may sound like a contradiction…”.
  5. Answer this question for yourself. How convinced are you?

You are writing an analytical paper about baby boomers currently still in the workplace. You are discussing their views on and current challenges during work in the last years of their career before retirement. Which information from the article on Millennials in the Workplace would you select to use in your paper?

Especially the first half of the article contrasts the Millennials and the Boomers. Page 227 (right column) discusses attitudinal differences and frustrations Boomers may experience in working with Millennials. Page 228 (left column, bottom) discusses what changes in attitude to work-life balance Boomers may adopt from Millennials. Most other references to Boomers are only mentioned in passing and not analyzed in much detail, so the two parts that are, should be considered as more reliable and useful for a text you are writing. In the References section, there is also a source (Zemke et al., 2000) that is relatively recent and deals with a number of generations in the workplace from a management point of view. This could be interesting literature to consult for your paper.

For additional information about how to assess the reliability of sources, see this University Library website. Also check the RefCite for information on how to avoid plagiarism, how to incorporate sources and how to use referencing systems like APA and OSCOLA.