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Evaluate Sources

Learn to manage research assignments from start to finish, avoid plagiarism, evaluate outside sources, and improve your writing.

Source evaluation criteria

Press a button to learn more about a key aspect of source evaluation or download a print-friendly PDF of this information.

The basics:

  1. Think critically!
  2. Instead of "Is this a good source?" ask "Will this source help me?"

Scholarly & popular periodicals

Instructors may require you to use scholarly journals (as opposed to popular magazines*) for your research assignments. These journals, which exist in all academic disciplines, publish reports of original research by scholars in their respective fields. Article databases allow you to limit your searches to scholarly publications, but learning the cues below will help you evaluate any source, anywhere.

Scholarly

Popular

Author/s: academics or subject experts Author/s: journalists, usually not specialists
Author info: academic credentials, university affiliations Author info: little to none provided
Audience: specialized Audience: general
Purpose: to report original research Purpose: to entertain or provide general information
References: included References: none
Structure: abstract, methodology, etc. Structure: no standard structure
Articles: long, detailed Articles: shorter, often superficial level of detail
Language: formal, technical Language: simple, colloquial
Ads: none or very few Ads: many
Editorial process: rigorous (may be "peer reviewed" or "refereed") Editorial process: briefer (copy-editing and, ideally, fact-checking)

* A third category, trade journals, are written for people working in a specific industry. Like scholarly journals, they target a specific audience and use specialized or technical language. Like popular periodicals, they usually don't undergo a peer-review process or include citations.

Learn more

All websites, articles, images, videos, etc., linked on this site are provided for informational purposes only. External content is not maintained by James Sprunt Community College, nor does it represent the views of the College or its employees. Please notify the library staff if you have concerns about linked content. Students are expected to evaluate all web and print resources and to determine their appropriate academic uses. A hyperlink to a resource or article from these LibGuides does not constitute an endorsement of that resource or article by the library.

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