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Evaluation Basics

How can you tell if your sources meet assignment requirements? Your professors want you to evaluate sources for authority, credibility, currency, and usefulness. 

Authority

  • Find the author(s) and determine if they are expert(s) in the field of study.
  • Check for citations or a reference list at the end of the source.
  • Review the format and graphics. Scholarly or peer-reviewed articles begin with an abstract and usually do not have images other than graphs.

Credibility

  • Use databases in your subject area and start your search in best bets. 
  • Search for the journal title in Ulrichsweb. A referee icon () indicates a journal is peer-reviewed for quality by other experts in the field. 

Currency

  • Determine if your topic requires current research, findings, and news. If you are researching cancer treatments, you will need to limit your search to recent (last five years) articles to find the articles covering the latest advancements. 
  • Discover seminal articles (also known as landmark or pivotal studies) in your field of research (i.e. Maslow's hierarchy of needs in the field of psychology).

Usefulness

  • Decide if a source is relevant or useful for your topic by reviewing the abstract (articles) or chapter titles (book). 

Not sure if what you are reading is true? Check the facts using one of the reliable fact-checkers below.

           Journal Articles                                 Magazine Articles 

Photo by hanspetermeyer CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A scholarly or peer-reviewed journal contains articles written by experts. 

Articles in scholarly or peer-reviewed journals, in most cases:

  • are written by and for professors, researchers, or other experts in a field. 
  • use scholarly or technical language.
  • include a full bibliography of sources cited in the article. 
  • are often peer-reviewed (sometimes called "referred"). 

News and magazine articles can help introduce you to a topic and see how the topic is being discussed.

Articles in popular sources: 

  • are written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience. 
  • are written in a language easy to understand. 
  • rarely have a references section.
  • often contain images and advertisements. 
  • may contain an argument, opinion, or analysis of an issue.