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Research Tips and Tricks

This Tips and Tricks research guide provides information on how to perform a search, ranging from how to choose what type of search to make, how to string key words together, and what to do with texts once you've found them.

The Rhetorical Situation

All sources, peer-reviewed or not, do require evaluation prior to use by a researcher. Yes, even scholarly sources should be evaluated using the following criteria (and perhaps more criteria not listed here).

Consider:

  • date of publication
    • How recent is the source? Was it written during, before, or after an event occurred? 
      • A 1942 article on WWII will look different from a 2021 article on WWII. Both can be valid for use in different contexts. 
  • author
    • Who are they? What are their qualifications? 
      • A biochemistry student, biochemist, and economist all have different qualifications. We consider their writings regarding chemical compounds differently. 
  • publisher
    • Like the author, what does this publisher tend to produce? Do they have a good reputation? 
      • Especially with academic articles, beware predatory publishers.
  • purpose
    • Why was this article written? 
    • depends on audience
  • audience
    • Who is this article for?
      • An author will write differently to children, teenagers, adults, etc.
      • The qualifications and characteristics of an audience influence the style of writing, as well. 

The above questions can help us determine:

  • bias
    • Everything has bias. Even the most even-keeled, objective in appearance articles contain bias. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but something to be aware of.
  • veracity
    • How true and trustworthy is the source?

Essentially, we're considering the rhetorical situation: the intersections between writer, subject, and audience. See this webpage from Open English @ SLCC for a good look at the rhetorical situation. 

Venn Diagram of the Rhetorical Situation from the Open English webpage:

Rhetorical Situation Exercise

For your chosen news article, determine the following:

  1. Date of publication in relation to the event/topic
  2. Author's ethos
  3. Publisher's background and area of expertise
  4. Audience demographic and their ethos
  5. Purpose