Assessing sources is a crucial part of the writing process. When researching, we not only absorb information that helps to develop our understanding of the topic, we also have to assess the strengths and weaknesses of a source and consider its relevance and value in relation to our own research focus. In one form or another, academic writing often requires this sort of appraisal. Indeed, this analysis is central to our critical thinking, allowing us to interpret a topic from various angles through the work of other scholars.
The table shown on this page provides a systematic way of assessing your academic sources (with an example to demonstrate how it can be filled out). Please click the Word version of the table just below this if you would like to save your own copy to edit.
|Author's background and other notable works|
|Brief summary of the text|
|Strengths of the source|
|Weaknesses of the source|
|Useful quotes (and page numbers)|
|Full reference||Lobato, R. (2009) ‘The politics of digital distribution: exclusionary structures in online cinema’, Studies in Australasian Cinema, 3(2), pp. 167-178.|
|Author's background and other notable works||Well respected academic in the field of media distribution. Often cited by academics focusing on media distribution and piracy. One of the more influential figures in putting media piracy on the academic map. Other notable works include the books, Shadow Economies of Cinema: Mapping Informal Film Distribution and The Informal Media Economy with Julian Thomas.|
|Intended audience||Academic audience, particularly those in the field of legal and illegal media distribution.|
|Brief summary of the text||Lobato examines how the digital landscape of on-demand content is somewhat restricted by exclusionary practices which hinder the supposedly open and democratic nature of digital distribution. For instance, he shows how the on-demand market does not have the diversity of choice promised because of the ongoing battle to secure content rights to show films online.|
|Main argument||Although digital distribution does have some positive attributes, there has yet to be the open, democratic and unfiltered access to content that many promised.|
|Strengths of the source||In advancing his argument that digital distribution is not as democratic and disruptive as promised, Lobato covers a good range of points, from content rights to issues of marketing and promotion. Lobato also offers some balance to the argument by pointing out that there are some positive qualities to digital distribution.|
|Weaknesses of the source||When this article was published, on-demand technology was in a nascent phase of development. Although not Lobato’s fault, this means that some of the material covered has moved on since the time of writing. For instance, there is now more diversity of content online because of the recent developments in content licensing. Some of Lobato’s points could also do with a little more development. This would help to further the complexity and depth of the work.|
|Useful quotes (and page numbers)||However, while increasing amounts of cinema now circulate digitally, the fantasy of total online distribution has failed to materialize.” (167) “As this analysis of the nascent online VOD industry has demonstrated, the commercial structures now emerging introduce a new and different set of gatekeepers.” (176)|