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ENGLISH 105-6: How to Become an Expert in Roughly Ten Weeks (Shwom): Evaluating Information

Distinguishing and Evaluating Sources

Consider the ACT UP criteria as you review search results and select sources for your research.  These work for all formats (websites, articles, books, videos, and more).

Magazines, journals, scholarly, popular, peer-reviewed...??  If you've ever run across any or a combination of these terms and needed clarification on their distinct meanings, this page aims to provide it.

 

Scholarly Journals

Trade Journals

Popular Magazines

Newspapers

Examples

Social Psychology Quarterly

Advertising Age

Time

New York Times

Content

Primary account of original research; In-depth analyses of issues in the field; Articles often include abstract, method, discussion, tables, conclusion, and references

Current news, trends, or products in an industry or professional organization; Statistics, forecasts, employment and career information

Current events and news; General information with purpose to entertain or inform; Analyses of popular culture; Secondary account of someone else's research that may include opinion

Current events and news that may be local, regional, national or international; Ads, editorials, speeches; Primary source for information on events

Language

Academic, technical jargon that uses the language of the discipline; Requires some relevant expertise

Specialized jargon or terminology of the field; Written for practitioners/professionals

Easily understandable, non-technical language; Written for the layperson

Written for a general audience; Understandable language

Authors

Researchers, scholars, professors, etc.

Practitioners in the field, industry professionals, or journalists with subject expertise

Journalists or staff writers

Journalists or staff writers

References

References, footnotes or bibliographies are always included

References in text or short bibliographies are occasionally included

References are rarely included

Rarely cite sources in full

Editors

Journal's editorial board, or if peer-reviewed, external scholars in the same field

Work for the publisher

Work for the publisher

Work for the publisher

Publishers

Universities, scholarly presses, or academic organizations

Commercial publishers or trade and professional organizations

Commercial publishers

Commercial publishers

Example Databases

Academic Search Premier, JSTOR, Sociological Abstracts, Historical Abstracts

ABI Inform, Business Source Premier, ERIC, SPORTDiscus

Readers Guide Abstracts, Academic OneFile, Academic Search Premier

LexisNexis Academic, Access World News, Library Press Display

 

Peer-reviewed journal articles vs. scholarly journal articles
Not all scholarly journal articles are peer-reviewed. However, all peer-reviewed articles (aka refereed articles) are scholarly.

What is peer-review?
Peer-review refers to the rigorous process that articles undergo before they may be published.  Other scholars in the author's field or discipline review and evaluate the article for quality and validity.  If lacking, the article may be rejected, but otherwise, the article is accepted, often with suggestions for revision.

Here are a few considerations when evaluating books for your project.

Authors: Look for background information about the author, such as educational experience, previously published research, or whether an author has been cited in other research. You can often find biographical details and affiliations for the author in the book itself. 

Bibliographies: Look for a bibliography in your book or look for your book in a bibliography.  Scholarly, well-researched books will include bibliographies or lists of consulted source materials used.  You might also come across a bibliography through which you find a book you might consult for your project.

Publishers: Who published the book?  If your publisher does not fall under a category below, it may still be scholarly.  However, you may want to look closely at other criteria in this guide to make further determinations.

  • University Presses: These publishers are affiliated with a university and considered to be highly reputable, e.g. Northwestern University Press, Oxford University Press.
  • Commercial Publishers: There are many commercial publishers that publish scholarly books, but not all do. Examples of scholarly, reputable commercial presses 
  • Professional or Trade Associations, Research Centers, or Institutions: Organizations that publish materials written by experts in a field or subject, e.g. American Philosophical Society, American Management Association, International Food Policy Research Institute.
  • Government (International, US, State or Local): Government publications are considered to be unbiased and authoritative, e.g. World Health Organization, U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), Illinois State Board of Education, City of Evanston.

Factitious (Game)