Source/Position Evaluation Worksheet
These are some of the issues you'll want to consider when gathering data for your source/position analysis. You'll want to read through the article at least once before beginning to answer these questions. After reading it once, you may want to read through again, either doing a "backwards outline" of the article (writing the main idea of each paragraph or section next to the paragraph) or summarizing it. Then, once you have a sense of the article as a whole, read and respond to the following questions.
- What is the article's topic? Does the article fit with the focus your group has selected? If so, what position does the article take on your topic or issue?
- What is the purpose of the article? Is it to introduce a new idea, present research, make an argument, provide an overview on a topic, or something else entirely? How can you tell?
- What is the article's thesis or main idea?
- Who is the author of the article, and what do you know about him or her? What kind of authority does he or she have in this subject area?
- Where is the article printed? What kind of periodical is it in? Is it an academic journal, a professional publication (for people in a particular field), or a popular magazine? Does the periodical suggest a particular kind of readership (gender, education level, political stance, professional interests, level of wealth, hobbies)? (Hint: All magazines, in some way or another, limit their readership to a particular "target group." To find out who that is, don't limit yourself to looking only at your article. Flip through the table of contents to see what else is printed in the periodical. Look at submission guidelines, advertisements, editorials and cartoons as well.)
- Is the language technical (field-specific) or accessible to a more general readership? If technical terms are used, are they clearly explained?
- Does the article include a works cited list or some other form of references?
- Based on the information above, do you feel the target audience is or could be an academic one? Why or why not?
- How does the writer develop his or her ideas? Does the author compare or contrast? Use statistics or other numerical evidence? Use personal anecdotes? Develop by example? Appeal to authority (other sources) or to his or her own character/expertise? Describe a process? Evaluate?
- Explain why the text is organized and developed the way it is. What does the writer do first, second, third. Why?
- How credible do you think the means of support would be to an academic reader? Why?
- How would you characterize the tone of this article? Is it formal or informal? Is it humorous or serious? Do you detect any sarcasm or irony? How does the author's choice of tone function to promote his or her purpose?
- Does the author refer to him or herself using the first person ("I")?
- Is the style appropriate/compelling to an academic audience? Why or why not?
Looking more closely at the position
Most issues don't involve simple either/or positions or solutions. Rather, most issues are open to a range of positions that writers may take. Look closely at the position the writer of your source takes as you answer these questions.
- How could you restate the position the author takes in the article?
- How do you see this position expanding the range of views on the topic for your group?
- What kind of evidence does the author give to support his/her position?
- What parts of the argument for the author's position do you find most convincing? Least convincing?
Now, based on your answers to the questions above, write an essay in which you make a claim about whether this particular article would be credible support for an academic essay. You might choose to focus on one or two of the areas listed above (the last question in each section will be particularly helpful in evaluating). Use textual examples to support your claim.