ENGLISH R1B: Free Speech & You

Evaluating sources

Research is as credible as the work that goes into it! It's important to analyze the information you find, including where it comes from. 


While a library database lists results from sources known to be reputable/scholarly, finding material via Google requires additional evaluation.

Scholarly or popular ?

Some databases contain popular as well as scholarly content. Depending on your needs, you may want to limit results to just scholarly content. You can...

  • choose a resource that only contains it
  • if using a resource with mixed content, limit to the scholarly material
    • what you should know
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Peer review process

Your instructor may want you to use "peer reviewed" articles. Or you may be asked to find picture of thinking student"academic," "scholarly," or "refereed" articles. What do these terms mean?

Let's start with the terms academic and scholarly, which are synonyms. An academic or scholarly journal is one intended for a specialized or expert audience. They exist to help scholars communicate their latest research and ideas to each other.

Most scholarly/academic journals are peer reviewed (also referred to as refereed). Before an article is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it's evaluated for quality and significance by several specialists (author's "peers") in the same field.

Magazines like Time or Scientific American, newspapers, (most) books, government documents, and websites are not peer-reviewed, though they may be thoroughly edited and fact-checked. Articles in scholarly journals (in printed format or online) usually are peer-reviewed.

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Citing sources

Properly citing sources is an important part of your research.  It allows you to avoid plagiarism and highlights your engagement with related scholarship.

In a nutshell:  "Whenever you quote or base your ideas on another person's work, you must document the source you used. Even when you do not quote directly from another work...." 

The above extract is taken from the Library's guide on citing sources. The guide gives an overview of this topic and links to formatting rules for the major citation styles.

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Last Update: June 08, 2011 15:26