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Boatwright Memorial Library

FYS 100: Crime & Punishment in Russian Fiction and Film (Brandenberger): Evaluating Sources

Recognizing Different Types of Sources

There are many different types of sources we might draw from and explore:

  • Scholarly writing, peer reviewed journals and books
  • Opinion pieces, book or reviews in magazines or online publications.
  • Journalism: news sources, podcasts, tv, documentary.
  • Artistic adaptations: visual art, music, film.

Some sources may take an obviously subjective approach or display a degree of bias. Sometimes this is appropriate to express a point of view! Know that no information is truly objective - not even scholarly writing or the New York Times. This doesn't make it less valid or less credible but you need to learn to evaluate the author or creator's perspective read between the lines.

What is a "Scholarly" Source?

Scholarly sources aka academic scholarship tends to come from people (like your professors) and is written primarily for an academic community, or others in their field. We should examine scholarly sources with a degree of criticality- though we may not be experts on a topic enough to agree or disagree with certain claims- we can still choose whether or not to engage with the text in our own writing and arguments. This engagement is part of the scholarly conversation.

  • Who is the author? What are their areas of expertise What are the author's credentials or institutional affiliation?
  • Can you trace back citations, bibliographies, or footnotes, showing the author is aware of a body of scholarship relevant to the field, and part of a scholarly conversation?
  • Was it published by an an academic institution or university press? Are they reputable in the field?
  • Is the author's work "peer reviewed" or refereed? Has the work gone through a rigorous editorial process by fellow experts in the field?

Evaluating Sources

Ask yourself:
  • Who produced the source what do you know about the their credentials, perspectives, expertise?
  • What is the content of the source- what arguments are being made and what biases do they reflect if any?
  • When was it produced and does that time frame affect its potential relevance?
  • Who is the publisher and what is their editorial process? Is it peer reviewed?
  • Why was it published?  To educate?  To influence?  To persuade?


Activity: Look at each of these articles. Answer the following:

  • What type of article is this? Is it scholarly?
  • Who wrote it and what are their credentials?
  • What is the name of the publication/website? What can we tell about its focus or pov?
  • Who is the publisher/creator?

Group 1: The Four Raskolnikovs and the Confessional Dream

Group 2: Dostoevsky at 200: An Idea of Evil

Group 3: Sonya, Silent No More: A Response to the Woman Question in Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment"

Group 4: Dostoevsky Variations

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