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SPAN 360: Teaching and Learning Spanish (HC) Spring 2015

Education/Spanish 360: The Teaching and Learning of Spanish (Lopez-Sanchez) Spring 2015

Evaluating Secondary Sources

As you conduct your search for secondary material, keep in mind the following questions to help you select high-quality and relevant resources:

  • Evidence - What kind of secondary material do you need to support your argument?

  • Audience - For whom is the resource intended?  Researchers, undergraduates, the general public?

  • Discipline - Is the resource written from within a particular discipline?  For example, is the book or article meant for education scholars, linguists, sociologists?  You will want to consider this question once you have found resources, but it is also a useful question to ask about your own argument.  Knowing your own approach will help you to know where to look—in which databases and so on—for secondary literature.

  • Expertise - What is the author's training?  Has the book or article been reviewed by other experts in the field (i.e., has it been peer-reviewed)?

  • Timeliness - When was the book or article published?  Recently published works will reflect current scholarship on a topic.

  • Objectivity - Does the author present a balanced point point of view?  In other words, does the author present competing interpretations fairly or are alternative readings misrepresented in service of the author's agenda?  Does the tone seem objective or overly emotional?

  • Documentation - Does the author adequately cite other literature relevant to his or her argument?  Of what quality are these citations?  (If the author includes quality secondary sources, you can use his or her bibliography to find further resources for your own project.)

See these resources for further information on evaluating secondary literature:

Reading Articles

How to Read an Article Very Quickly

  • Read the abstract
    • This concise nugget of information will tell you the research question and findings. If relevant, continue to next step.
  • Skim the introduction section
    • This will give you a good idea of the background, hypotheses, and scholarship the study builds upon. Still relevant? Continue on.
  • Read the discussion section
    • You'll find out how the results were reconciled to the hypothesis.

If the article is highly relevant, you'll then want to read it through, perhaps more than once. Scholarly articles tend to be pretty complex and it is normal to read and take notes more than once. Protip: taking notes and then writing a brief annotation will help you write your Resumen y Reacción papers as well as your final research paper.


Annotating is incredibly helpful, both for understanding a text and for synthesizing it and formulating a thoughtful response.