Evaluating Sources

How to evaluate whether a source is credible and scholarly.

Evaluation checklist

Author

  • What are the author's qualifications? (education, past writings)
  • If the author is part of an organization, what is the purpose of that organization?

Publisher

  • For journal articles, is the journal peer reviewed?
  • Is the publisher a university, scholarly society, government agency, trade, non-profit or commercial organization?

Purpose

  • Why was the resource written? To inform? To persuade? To sell?
  • Is the material objective, showing more than one side of an issue?

Audience

  • Is the resource intended for scholars, professionals, members of an organization, the general public?

Content

  • Is the topic covered in depth?
  • Does the resource describe other research done on the topic and provide a bibliography of related resources?
  • Does the resource report a new research study (primary source material), or does it describe or analyze research done by others?

Accuracy

  • Can facts be verified?
  • Are opinions and conclusions supported by the evidence?

Timeliness

  • When was the resource published?
  • Is the information still current or valid for your topic?
What is a peer reviewed journal

What is a peer-reviewed journal

What is a peer-reviewed journal? 

A journal is refereed or peer reviewed if its articles have been evaluated by experts before publication. Peer review ensures that the research described in a journal's articles is sound and of high quality. 

Not everything in a peer reviewed journal is peer-reviewed. Journals often contain material that has not gone through the peer review process, like book reviews, letters, and editorials. Also, journal articles which have not been peer reviewed may still be of high quality. It is important to evaluate individual articles for quality and usefulness.

Finding/identifying peer reviewed articles

Finding/identifying peer-reviewed articles

Many databases allow you to limit results specifically to peer-reviewed journal articles.

To see if your journal is peer reviewed, try searching Ulrich's Global Serial Directory: a comprehensive database of periodical descriptions, including whether they are refereed. Search for the journal (e.g., by title) and look for the peer-reviewed symbol in the list of results, or for this information on the detailed record.

If Ulrich's does not list the journal, do a web search for the journal title to find a web site for the publisher. Example: Journal of Marketing Research states that it is peer reviewed. If peer review or refereed is not mentioned, check instructions for authors; for example, Human Factors describes their double-blind review option.

Finding scholarly books