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Evaluating Sources

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Academic level of your paper

Type of Paper

When is it due?

How many pages is this assigment?

No matter where you get your information – a print book or magazine, an electronic database, off the Internet – evaluating your research results is essential for a successful project.

Consider these key points:

  • AUTHORITY: Who published the item? What are their credentials?
  • CONTENT: What’s the author’s purpose? Who’s the intended audience? Is the content appropriate for college level work?
  • TIMELESS? Does the date matter to you? When was the item published? Updated?
  • ACCURACY? Is the content balanced or biased? Can the content be verified from other sources? Are the author’s sources of links cited?
  • CITATION INFO: Do you have everything you’ll need to cite quotations? To compile a Works Cited page?


Scholarly Journal or Popular Magazine?
‘Journal,’ ‘serial,’ ‘periodical,’ and ‘magazine’ refer to any publication that appears at regular intervals; and they can be used to refer to both scholarly and popular publications. Some instructors use ‘professional journal’ to refer to all periodicals whose intended audience is the people working in that profession. Some instructors use various terms interchangeably. The correct use of any of these terms is whatever your instructor says it is.

The difference between ‘scholarly’ and ‘popular’ is the intended audience, the purpose, and the presentation of the material, not the quality of the writing or the reliability of the information.


  • Published by a professional organization or society to advance knowledge in that field
  • Written by researchers for fellow researchers
  • Purpose is to present the results of research
  • Language and presentation are formal
  • Always cites sources
  • Rarely includes photographs but frequently includes statistical graphs and charts
  • Advertising rare, usually subdued, usually related to the field
  • Examples: American Journal of Psychiatry, Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, Nursing Administration Quarterly


  • Published by a company to make a profit through sales of the magazine
  • Written by paid authors for the average reader
  • Purpose is to inform or entertain
  • Language and presentation are informal
  • Rarely cites sources
  • Frequently includes photographs or illustrations
  • Advertising colorful, promotes wide variety of products
  • Examples: People Weekly, Time Magazine, Motor Trend