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SOC 311: Feminist Theory (Christy Craig)

This guide will walk you through the research process on how to find scholarly, sociology articles related to feminist theory. It includes the major sociology journals on women studies, citation instruction, how to read scholarly articles, and how to deve

Make a Plan - What do you Need

Before you start searching in earnest:

  1. Do a preliminary search with the library catalog. 
    • Are there any journals that keep popping up?
    • Does there seem to be a gap in the literature?
    • Is there enough published information for me to use?
    • Who can I talk to for information?
  2. Select the best types of Resources for what you want to do.
    • Are there conflicting arguments that I should address?
    • Is there a popular theory that applies to what I am researching?
    • Are there statistics or primary research I can use?
    • Do I have requirements for what types of resources I should use?

Evaluating Sources

When you are looking for resources, try asking yourself how you will use them to make your argument. 

Background Sources - Materials that provide an overview of a topic, such as core concepts and facts. 

  • Used for information that is well established in the field.
  • Example resources include but are not limited to: encyclopedias, trade journals. text books, scholarly articles, biographies, timelines, etc. 

Exhibit Sources - Materials used to provide evidence for your argument. 

  • Require analysis and interpretation.  
  • Depending on your discipline, example resources may include: literature, poetry, statistics, interviews, autobiographies, data, photographs, blueprints, government documents, case law, etc. 

Argument Sources - Materials that provide arguments from other authors that you agree with, disagree with, or build upon.

  • Required to make your argument relevant.
  • The foundation for your thesis and how you approach your topic. 
  • Often included in the literature review of many disciplines. 
  • Examples resources may include, but are not limited to: Scholarly articles, theories, schools of thought, etc. 

Method Sources - Materials you follow to determine how you are going to do your research. 

  • Use to determine how you will conduct your study and interpret your data. 
  • Can include: research procedure, theories, methods of analysis, and sources of discipline-specific vocabulary. 

Depending on your research assignment, try to find sources that fit in each of the BEAM categories. Also consider how you are going to use your resources when you read them and take notes. 

When looking at an information source, try asking yourself the Five W's

  • Who? Who wrote this? Can you even tell? Are they an authority in this topic? Credentials are important, but first-hand accounts are also important. Most importantly, who stands to benefit if you believe this source?
  • What? What kind of resource is this? Is it an advertisement? Newspaper article? Scholarly research article? Also, what kind of information does it present? Does the content match up with what you already know about this topic? Are there a bunch of advertisements, either related or unrelated to the topic of the article?
  • When? How up to date is the information? And how soon after the event was this published? (We've all seen false reports and misinformation happen shortly after major events like school shootings.) Also, how up to date do you need the information to be? Looking for reviews of classic movies that came out shortly after the cinematic debut versus critical acclaim that came years later can make a big difference.
  • Where? Country of origin?  How different is the information provided by CNN versus BBC versus Al-Jazeera? Also, where is this information in relation to the structure of the website? Is it on the front page? Is it buried?
  • Why? What's the purpose of the source? Is it trying to sell you something? Convince you of something? Also, why are you looking at this source? Entertainment? Medical research? Academic need?

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current or out of date for your topic?
  • Are the links functional?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining that this is one you will use?
  • Is this source appropriate for a research paper?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    • examples: .com (commercial), .edu (educational), .gov (U.S. government), .org (nonprofit organization), or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the content

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem unbiased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? To inform? Teach? Sell? Entertain? Persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? Opinion? Propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

By scoring each category on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 = worst, 10=best possible) you can give each site a grade on a 50 point scale for how high quality it is!

45 - 50 Excellent | 40 - 44 Good | 35 - 39 Average | 30 - 34 Borderline Acceptable | Below 30 - Unacceptable