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Evaluating and Citing Sources

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Evaluating Resources

This guide is designed to show you how you can recognize high quality information in print and on the Internet by developing critical evaluation skills.

Finding credible print and online resources for your research papers can be challenging.  You want your information to be accurate, and from reputable sites and authors.  This Guide will help you to start looking at websites and paper sources with a more skillful eye.

For both paper and online resources, there are certain criteria to look at:

  • Currency: Is the information recent, or have there been newer updates?
  • Relevancy: Why are you choosing this information over other resources? What is the scope? Is this resource general or specific?
  • Accuracy: Is this information correct? Can it be verified? Is it complete? Is it cited? Is it peer-reviewed?
  • Authority: Is the author, creator, qualifications, or organization clearly stated? What is their reputation? What type of credentials do they have, and are they appropriate to your topic?
  • Purpose: Who is the intended audience? Is the site trying to sell anything? What biases does the author have and how do they affect the resource?

Criteria used to differentiate periodicals

These general guidelines are designed to help you distinguish between the three main types of periodicals: popular magazines, trade magazines, and scholarly journals. Not all periodicals can be easily classified. If you aren't sure whether a publication is appropriate for your assignment, ask for help at the Information Desk or from your instructor.


Popular Press Magazines


Professional/Trade Magazines


Academic/Scholarly Journals

Intended
Audience
- general public - people working in the field
- post-secondary students
- researchers and academics
- post-secondary students
Author(s) - on-staff professional journalists
- free-lance journalists or writers
- people working in the field
- free-lance journalists or writers
- academics and researchers in the field
Article Selection - editor assigns and/or chooses articles - editor assigns and/or chooses articles - editorial board of researchers/academics
- "peer review" or "referee" committee
Type of Research - usually secondary reporting of research
- some original research (general public concerns)
- usually secondary reporting of research
- some original research
- mostly original research
Purpose - provide general information; to entertain - provide practical information to people in a specific field - inform or make original research available to the scholarly world
References - may mention sources in text, but no formal citations (i.e., bibliography) - may have a short bibliography of references - contain bibliographies, footnotes, endnotes, and/or works cited
Advertisements - many general ads - ads are usually related to the industry

- may promote upcoming conferences or publications
- very few, if any, commercial advertisements

Appearance - designed to be eye-catching and attractive; glossy pages; colourful pictures - designed to be eye-catching and attractive; glossy pages; moderately colourful pictures - serious and plain-looking; few pictures; may have graphs/charts to illustrate concepts
Writing Style - general language
- informal writing style

- includes terminology specific to the field
- more formal writing style than popular magazines, but less formal than scholarly journals

- full of terminology specific to the field
- formal writing style
Examples - Newsweek
- National Geographic
- Maclean's
- Nursing BC
- CA Magazine
- Advertising Age

- JAMA: Journal of the American Medical Association
- International Review of Social History
- Canadian Journal of Political Science

What if you are using an online, full-text article? It's a little trickier determining what a scholarly article is when you don't have the whole journal or magazine in your hand. Here are some clues that may help you:
<1) Look for a list of references (a bibliography) at the end of the article.
2) If the article is less that half a page in length, it is not a research article.
3) Look for credentials after the author(s) name.
4) If the title of the publication has the word "journal" in it, chances are it is scholarly.
5) In some article databases (indexes) you can limit your search to "peer reviewed" journals (scholarly journals).
6) Use the chart above to help you evaluate the article.

Finally, if you are still unsure, ask for help at the Information Desk or from your instructor!