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Library Research Guides

Research Methods in Public Policy

The library guide provides basic information related academic research for students of the Ford School of Public Policy, especially MPP/MPA students

Quality Criteria

Questions to ask  
How to determine the answer
Is it relevant to my research?
This is the most important factor; if it isn't relevant, why use it?  But it's a subjective question.  Use your judgement: how does the content relate to my research question?  Is there a way to make it relate?
Is it in a peer-reviewed journal?
The full database record tells you if the journal is peer-reviewed.  
You can also look up the journal title in UlrichsWeb.  In the "Basic Description" look for the "Refereed" field.

Does the article report on an empirical study (if that's the assignment)?

Students sometimes cite book reviews, literature reviews, or other kinds of articles when they've been asked to cite empirical studies.  To determine this factor, use your judgment; the abstract will make it clear.  
Is it a journal article (vs.a dissertation or book)?
SOme databases (e.g. PAI, Political Science Complete) specifie the format of each item; Google Scholar tells you if it’s a book; otherwise, you need to judge by the publication information
Is it relatively recent? 
Self-evident.  It’s okay to include older references if they are the classic ones to which many other articles refer.  But you should try to find some more recent material, from the last 5-10 years if it’s available.
What is the quality of the research itself, in terms of methodology, appropriate sample, etc.?
You’re learning to evaluate that in this course.
Does the author have a good reputation?  The author's institution?
It takes time to get a sense of this.  If the author is very well-known and highly-published in the discipline, that's a plus.  But an unknown or first-time author can do high-quality work and publish a high-quality article. 
How many times has the article been cited?

You can look this up - Google Scholar provides a number (includes citations in books, and can include duplicates).  PAI shows a number for how many times it’s been cited IN recent PAI records.  You can also use Web of Science to get a measure of times cited. 
Caveats: Very recent articles haven’t been out long enough to have been cited!  And there can be reasons a problematic or controversial article might be cited a lot -- so, a high citation number is not always an indicator of high quality.)
Being in a “good journal”
You might recognize the journal’s name from this research guide.
Originally table is created by Susan Turkel 
Modofied by Jungwon Yang ( Oct. 2013)