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Academic Integrity: Evaluating Sources

Types of Sources

Scholarly Journal Articles

The online catalog and library databases connect you with academic and scholarly journal articles, required sources for college research assignments.
Scholarly articles contain original research and are written by experts in a field. Many scholarly articles are reviewed by other experts in the same field prior to being published and are referred to as 'Peer Reviewed' or 'Refereed.'
When it comes to evaluating academic and scholarly sources, much of the work has been done for you by other experts in the field. Less examined sources and those not held to academic standards will require more evaluation and critical thinking on your part.

Recommended Journals & Websites

Journals and websites published by associations and organizations supporting a field can be useful for news and data relating to a specific field of study, e.g., The Chronicle of Higher Education and publications of the American Psychological Association. Many professional publications can be accessed online and through the library's databases.
Sources in this category are not considered scholarly but are often aimed at experts in a field. And, because sponsoring organizations in a field are interested in supporting that field, they are more likely to keep information current and check the accuracy and authority of what they report.
Web search tip: When searching for professional sources on the Web, it can be helpful to go directly to association websites for information related to a specific field. You can also limit your search to only .edu and .gov websites by adding 'site:edu' or 'site:gov' into the search box with your search terms.

Popular sources & the Internet

The Internet, like popular publications such as Psychology Today and the Smithsonian Magazine, may contain useful information but as we get further away from academic and scholarly sources we must pay closer attention to authorship, and to 'where' and 'why' the information was created.

Fake news

The term fake news is often used to describe false news stories. By nature, news and media outlets will present some bias while not falling into the fake news category. Evaluating your sources is necessary to understand the nature of information, and it is up to you to make sure your information is credible, reliable, and accurate. Take a look at the infographic How to Spot Fake News created by the International Federation of Library Associations.

Evaluating Sources

Consider the following when gathering information for research assignments.
  • Authority‚ÄčWho is the author, publisher, source, or sponsoring organization? What experience or credentials does the author have?
  • Purpose. Why does the information exist? Is the information fact or opinion? Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?
  • Relevance. Does the information relate to your topic or answer your questions? Are you comfortable citing this source in your research assignment?
  • Date. When was the information published or posted? Does your topic require current information?
  • Accuracy. Where does the information come from? Is there supporting data or evidence? Can you verify the information in another source?