Skip to Main Content

ENGL 2A: Reading Food, Self and Culture (Leither Spr20)

Introduction Exercise 2: Find and Evaluate Your Sources

In this next exercise, you'll practice finding, citing, and evaluating a variety of different kinds of sources. Complete these activities:

1. Watch the 2-minute video below. It explains databases, which you'll be using in this exercise.

2. Work through Tasks 1-4 one at a time. The last task will ask you to evaluate and rank your sources.

Task 1: Background

You are looking for scholarly, background or introductory information relating to topic.

(Hint: scholarly books, encyclopedias, Wikipedia, or research reports are appropriate when you need a broad overview of a topic).

In this guide, go to "Find Books" to begin looking for that kind of background source. (For other assignments, using an encyclopedia article is also acceptable).

Find a scholarly book published within the last 10 years about your topic that gives a broad overview. 

Ex. history of ethics in advertising  /  food industry AND ethics

Answer the following questions about your source (choose Task 1):

Here is an example ebook search:


Task 2: News

You are looking for a news article written for the general public relating to your topic.

Go to the "Find Newspapers" section of this guide and find a news source published recently about your topic where they cite or interview an expert. This may take you 5-10 minutes (Don't give up! be sure to go to beyond page 1 of results).

Ex. doping AND sports competition*

Answer the following questions about your source (choose Task 2):

Here is an example search in the New York Times:


Task 3: Scholarly

You are looking for scholarly, nuanced analysis and research on your topic.

Step I: Brainstorm 2-3 different possible subject areas that your topic might fall under. (Hint: look under "Databases" tab on the Library homepage and select "Browse by Subject" .)

Step II: For each of those subjects areas, identify 2 possible databases for further exploration (watch this video for help).

Step III: Find 2 (two) academic source within one of those databases that contains current research written by scholars or experts on your topic (watch this video for help).

Ex. deception* AND social media

Answer all of the above following questions about your source (choose Task 3):

Here is an example search in the database called "Communication Source":

Sometimes you will find just the summary, not the whole article. Click on "Find It at SCU Libraries" to see if the article is in another library database:

How to Find It at SCU Libraries


Note: Be sure to check the citation for accuracy against the OWL Purdue site, for example.

Task 4: Evaluate and Rank Your Sources

You should have 3-4 sources with different experts who authored or who were interviewed. Use your professor's Evaluating Secondary Sources rubric below to evaluate these sources.

The Author (Research the author using the web and the library databases)
0. He or she does not have other articles published on the topic or is not an expert in the field.
1. He or she has other articles published on the topic and has some expertise or knowledge in the field.
2. He or she has published extensively on the subject and is an expert in the field.
The Writing and Fairness
0. The source is poorly written, poorly organized, does not consider the opposition, or has an inappropriate tone.
1. The source is fairly written, fairly organized, considers the opposition, and has an appropriate tone.
2. The writing is engaging, organized, and the tone is confident and objective in its consideration of opposition.
Support and Thoroughness
0. Claims are unsupported and the evidence is inaccurate or skewed.
1. Most claims are supported with evidence and the evidence is accurate.
2. Claims are supported with evidence and the evidence is accurate.
Publication Origin
0. The origin of this source is unreliable or unknown.
1. This is a popular source (magazine or newspaper article, website, book for a general audience).
2. This is a scholarly source (peer reviewed journals/websites, university press publication).
Now, add up the total for each source.  
  • Total Below 5: An unreliable source.
  • Total of 5 or 6: A quality source by an accomplished author, well-written, and well-supported.
  • Total of 7 or 8: An exceptional source, written by a reliable author, containing flawless research and thorough analysis, and published in a scholarly journal, book, or website.

Of all your sources, which one would you pick as your top ranked and which is your lowest ranked source?

Enter that answer here under Task 4.