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Master of Fine Arts

A guide to library research for MFA students

Assessing Resources

Evaluating Books

Books can be tricky to assess for scholarly content. Generally the library evaluates the content of print material before ordering items and placing them in the collection. Some things to look for if you need scholarly resources:

  • Is the book published by a University Press?
  • Credentials of author or editor: are they an expert in the field, a professor? Conduct some investigations to find out.
  • Are there citations/bibliography?
  • Are there reviews of the book?

Keep in mind, just because you find something on the library shelves or though one of the library's databases, does not mean it is a scholarly source.

Evaluating Journal Articles

If you are searching for articles through the library's General Search, use the advanced search option and click scholarly peer reviewed or academic journal under the limit search results box. The same applies when searching in individual databases. Having said that, it's still always a good idea to assess a journal article on its own merits.

  • Is the journal published by a University Press or Professional Organization?
  • Are the author’s credentials included?
  • Does the article include citations and a bibliography?
  • Does the article have an abstract?
  • Is the journal mostly text (with some illustration and tables) or does it have advertisements?

Magazine articles

Scholarly journal articles

Articles may be written by non-specialists Articles written by experts: often professors
Articles are reviewed by an editor, but not by a panel of experts Articles often go through a peer review process: independent experts evaluate the article before it's published
Articles may or may not mention sources in the text Articles have footnotes and/or bibliographies
May have extensive advertising, lavish photos, colorful cover to market the magazine Minimal advertising, graphics, or illustrations unless relevant to the article (for example, art journals)

Evaluating Websites

Websites can be useful tools for accessing information. Keep in mind though that information on the Internet is not always current, accurate or authoritative. Ask questions like:

  • Who made and maintains this site? What are their credentials? Is the information current?
  • What is the domain name of the site? 
  • Is there an about page on the site that states who made it?

Important Considerations

In addition to the above methods for determining the credibility of a resource, consider the following questions:

  • What do the different types of authority look like in your particular context or community of practice?
  • What happens when one perspective is promoted and others are left unexpressed within your field?
  • How do you critique persuasive, incomplete, prejudiced, or manipulative information, including images, text, and other creative media?
  • What are your informed parameters and guidelines for determining authority within your discipline and practice?       604-844-3840        520 East 1st Avenue, Vancouver, BC