Skip to Main Content

ENG 103/201: Composition

This guide will introduce you to the steps of the research process and resources relevant to College Reading & Writing students.

What Makes a Source Good?

If you took UNI 101/201 at UNCW, you learned about what makes a source good for a particular information need. If you didn't, or want a refresher, the gist is essentially that all information has value, but not all information is valuable for every need. You don't need a peer-reviewed journal article to answer the question, "Do I need an umbrella today?" In the same way, today's forecast from a local TV meteorologist won't answer the question, "How has climate change affected the weather patterns in the Cape Fear region over the past 15 years?"

Your values and the guidelines of your research assignment will tell you a lot about what information is valuable. Some things you might consider, though:

  • Is this current enough? If you're researching something historical, does this fit the time period you're researching? Are there more recent developments to include?
  • Who published this? Is this an expert in this area, whether that's based on credentials or a unique or personal perspective or experience on this topic? What else have they published?
  • Am I able to verify this information elsewhere? If you're unsure how to do so, brush up on how to fact-check your sources using the SIFT Method. Watch this short video (3:20) from Wayne State University Libraries to learn about the SIFT Method.
  • Who funded this? Is this published by a news organization that might receive funding from a source you should consider? If you're looking at peer-reviewed research, was this funded by an organization that might have influenced the study's design or results?
  • How can you use this source? Is it useful for providing Background, Evidence, Argument, or Method (BEAM)? Are there relevant discussions or data it shares, or is there a better source out there?

You shouldn't just be evaluating each individual source, but also your sources as a whole.

  • When you look at all of the sources you've found, are there any trends that emerge? How do these sources "communicate" with each other through their evidence and arguments? Are there viewpoints, sub-topics, or identities you feel are missing? Is a particular perspective or research focus over-represented in your works cited?

These are just a few things you might think about, but consider what's important to you and what your instructor requires!

Making Quick Initial Judgments

You'll often search multiple times and encounter thousands of articles in a research project. No one has time to read everything! How do you decide which ones are worth reading at all? Check out the article below from Oakland University for some tips on how to maximize your time and skip the articles that aren't worth reading!