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​Getting Started with Research

A guide to help with the essentials of library research

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Evaluating Sources

Checklist for Evaluating Sources

Reliability

Is the information presented accurate and dependable? One way to help determine the reliability of an item is to compare the facts with other documents on the same topic to check supporting facts or data.

Credibility

What are the author’s credentials? Is the author an expert in the field?

Validity

Know where the information is coming from. Is the work based on personal opinion, original research, laboratory experiments, or other documentation? From what sources were the facts gathered?

Perspective

Be watchful of author bias, especially when looking for objective accounts. Consider the author’s cultural, political, social, and economic background.

Timeliness

Check the date of publication. Are you looking for contemporary materials (sources which originated near or at the time of an event, idea or phenomenon)? Are you looking for a current account of an historic event?

References

References or a bibliography can give you an opportunity to check the item’s validity, and they can also provide you additional resources on your topic.

Purpose

Why was the item written?

The purpose can range from dissemination of information about an important study or research project, to the insight of a specific group of people, to propaganda.

Intended Audience

Who is the target audience? Children, laypersons, scholars, professionals? This is often reflected in the author’s writing style. Is this appropriate for your purposes?


Source:  Davis, Dell M. (1996). Evaluating resources. In Empowering students; hands-on library instruction activities (Marilyn P. Whitmore, ed.). Pittsburgh: Library Instruction Publications.

How to Read a Scholarly Article (Video Tutorial)

Check out this short video from Western University on how to read a scholarly article.

Evaluating with 6 Question Words Infographic

Thanks to IUPUI University Library for allowing reuse of this graphic under a Creative Commons license.

Evaluating Information Infographic

Long description of "Evaluating Information" for web accessibility

Evaluating Your Sources (Video Tutorial)

Check out this short video from UNC Libraries on how to evaluate your sources of information.

Finding Scholarly/Peer-Reviewed Sources

What are scholarly sources?

  • Articles published in scholarly journals which cover academic and scientific research. Scholarly journals are often referred to as "peer-reviewed" or "refereed."
  • Books written by academic scholars and published (most often) by university presses.

How do I search for and find scholarly sources?

For articles, search in library databases. Look for links to limit results by "academic sources" or "peer-reviewed sources."

For books, search in LibrarySearch. Look for the name of the publisher in the catalog record, e.g., "University of California Press."

How can I tell if a source is scholarly?

In general, scholarly sources:

  • Are written by an author with an advanced degree, i.e., a college professor
  • Are written for an academic audience
  • Contain a credible list of citations/references
  • Include in-text citations
  • Often contain an abstract, literature review, methodology, results, or discussion.

How can I be absolutely sure my journal article is scholarly?

  1. Go to Ulrich's Periodicals Directory
  2. Type in the title of the journal in the search box
  3. When you find the link to the journal, click on it
  4. Look for the Document Type to say "Journal; Academic/Scholarly"
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