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SOCW 5353 Social Health Policy and Social Justice: Evaluating Sources

Types of Sources

Popular: Sources published in newspapers and magazines intended for general audience. 

Scholarly: Well researched sources that have been written for scholars, students, and experts in the discipline area.

Peer Reviewed: Articles that have been evaluated by other professionals in the field to check for accuracy and adherence to disciplinary standards.

Know the Difference

Article: Articles are the individual "stories" published in a newspaper, magazine, or journal. For example, the story about the Rangers published in Sports Illustrated is an article.

Journal: Journals contain several articles published about a specific subject area and are typically scholarly. For example, the article about stem cells was published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

Database: Databases index millions of articles published in thousands of newspapers, magazines, and journals. There are databases that index sources from many different discipline areas, while others are subject specific. For example, the New York Times can be accessed by searching the database Lexis Nexis Academic.

Using Sources Effectively

Structure of a Research Paper

While academic disciplines vary on the exact format and style of journal articles in their field, most articles contain similar content and are divided in parts that typically follow the same logical flow.  Following is a list of the parts commonly found in research articles.  

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methods
  • Results
  • Discussion/Conclusion
  • References/Bibliography

Research papers are organized so that the information flow resembles an hourglass in that it goes from general  to specific and then back to general again.  The introduction and literature review sections will introduce the problem and provide general information. The methods and results will provide specific, detailed information about this research project and the discussion/conclusion will discuss the findings in a larger context. The following section will describe each of these parts in more detail.  Additional information can be found in the Resources section of this module and in the Suggested Readings.

Title

The title should be specific and indicate the problem the research project addresses using keywords that will be helpful in literature reviews in the future.

Abstract

The abstract is used by readers to quickly review the overall content of the paper.  Journals typically place strict word limits on abstracts, such as 200 words, making them a challenge to write.  The abstract should provide a complete synopsis of the research paper and should introduce the topic and the specific research question, provide a statement regarding methodology and should provide a general statement about the results and the findings.  Because it is really a summary of the entire research paper, it is often written last.

Introduction

The introduction begins by introducing the broad overall topic and providing basic background information.  It then narrows down to the specific research question relating to this topic.  It provides the purpose and focus for the rest of the paper and sets up the justification for the research.

Literature Review

The purpose of the literature review is to describe past important research and it relate it specifically to the research problem.  It should be a synthesis of the previous literature and the new idea being researched.  The review should examine the major theories related to the topic to date and their contributors.  It should include all relevant findings from credible sources, such as academic books and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Methods

The methods section will describe the research design and methodology used to complete to the study.  The general rule of thumb is that readers should be provided with enough detail to replicate the study.

Results

In this section, the results of the analysis are presented.  How the results are presented will depend upon whether the research study was quantitative or qualitative in nature.  This section should focus only on results that are directly related to the research or the problem. Graphs and tables should only be used when there is too much data to efficiently include it within the text.  This section should present the results, but not discuss their significance.

Discussion/Conclusion

This section should be a discussion of the results and the implications on the field, as well as other fields. The hypothesis should be answered and validated by the interpretation of the results.  This section should also discuss how the results relate to previous research mentioned in the literature review, any cautions about the findings, and potential for future research.

References/Bibliography

The research paper is not complete without the list of references. This section should be an alphabetized list of all the academic sources of information utilized in the paper.  The format of the references will match the format and style used in the paper.  APA, is the law of the land for Social Work.