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Evaluating Information Sources

Tips for evaluating the usefulness and credibility of information from journals, websites, books, and other sources.

Is the source credible? How do you know?

Questions to consider:

1.  Who is the author?   How do you know?   What is the author's background?

2.  Who is the publisher or sponsor of the information? 

3.  Can you determine where the author got his/her information?  Are his/her sources cited appropriately?

Scholarly or Popular?

One important criteria to consider is whether the source you're using is considered scholarly in nature or not.  Most often, scholarly information is published in academic journals or in books. 

Here are some characteristics to help you decide if your source is scholarly.

  • Long articles
  • Written in the language of the discipline
  • Intended for researchers and scholars
  • Specialized vocabulary
  • Includes a bibliography, charts, graphs, and often a description of methodology or results of a study
  • Scholarly jouranls are usually published monthly, quartlery, or only a few times each year

Use scholarly information when you need to read original research studies and results and when you want sound, high quality research on your topic.

What does "peer-reviewed" mean?

Peer review is a process by which articles submitted to a scholarly journal for publication are sent to a panel of expert researchers in the field (“peers”). The panel of experts decides whether the article is worthy of publication (“review”). If an article has been peer-reviewed, it is considered to be of the highest quality.