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Scholarly, Professional, Popular?
What kind of information do you need? If you are writing for a class assignment, you may be required to use peer-reviewed ("refereed") or scholarly sources. In any case, you should always look for sources that are authoritative. For more detailed help with evaluating your sources, see our Evaluating Information Guide.
Scholarly Checklist--Look for:
- Authors listed, with credentials
- Cited references and data, observations, or statistics to support conclusions
- Reviewed by peers or experts in the subject
- Purpose is to inform or impart knowledge, not to sell, persuade, entertain
- Appears impartial--few or no advertisements, no emotional language, unbiased
Authoritative--A source can have authority even if it isn't scholarly.
- Author and/or publisher is an expert on the subject
- Author's affiliations and contact information are available
Other Criteria-- these are not definitive, but worthy of consideration:
- Do you see errors in spelling, grammar, data?
- Is the publication in turn cited by other credible works published later?
- How current is the information (no date? be suspicious)?
The Web vs. Library Tools
Although you can find high-quality information through web search engines, using library tools such as the catalog and databases may help you find information sources more efficiently.
|Web Search Engines
|Search the worldwide web; much is unpublished; quality of information varies from one page to the next
||Search published materials, selected for scholarliness and high quality
|Usually no features for saving search results
||Researcher tools allow you to save search results, email, print, generate citations, etc.
|May be difficult to narrow search results to hone in on what you want
||Features are available to narrow search results by topic, format, date, etc.
|Web pages may be "here today, gone tomorrow," information on webpages may change overnight
||Published work has stability; publisher takes responsibility for any updates or error correction
|Social networking (comments on articles, e.g.) allows you to get an idea of the state of current conversation about an issue
||Published materials tend to be more static
|Good for reading news, current events
||Good for finding scholarly and authoritative works on a topic
|Very current information can be found
||Publication process takes awhile; information is weeks or months old
Evaluating Sources for Credibility
How to Identify Scholarly Articles
Typical qualities of a scholarly journal article include:
An abstract or summary begins the article
It contains citations or a bibliography
You can see the author's affiliation and credentials
The journal title often contains words such as journal, review, transactions and is subject or topic specific
Its written to inform and contains specialized language
Its written for other scholars in the subject
Scholarly journals tend to have few, if any images, but often contain charts, graphs, or data tables.
Found an article, but you aren't sure if it's scholarly?
Compare it to the Anatomy of Scholarly article from NCSU Libraries