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English 1B & 2

Finding the Best Sources for My Assignment

Your professor may require a variety of sources for your research assignment. For example, you may be asked to find scholarly, peer-reviewed sources, newspaper/magazine articles and/or online sources. This page will help you distinguish the difference between the different types of sources and how to evaluate them.

Evaluating Sources

Always question the content and quality of sources you use. Use the following criteria to determine if the source is appropriate for your research:

Currency - When was the information published, updated or revised?

Authority - How are the authors and what are their credentials? Is the article peer-reviewed? For books, is the book published by a scholarly press or a popular press, or is the book self published?

Accuracy - Does the source match your understanding? Can you verify the information in other sources? Is there a bibliography?

Relevance - How much information was presented? Does the scope fulfill your information needs?  Is the readership level of appropriate?

Purpose - Is the purpose stated? Does the research attempt to present objectivity? What are the biases?

Your professor wants you to use scholarly resources in your research. The table below will help you distinguish between scholarly and popular sources, based on typical characteristics associated with scholarly journals and popular magazines.


Scholarly Journals

Popular Magazines


Scholarly Journals

Popular Magazines

  Author Usually a scholar or researcher with expertise in the subject area; Author's credentials and/or affiliation are given. Author's name may or may not be given; often a professional writer; may or may not have expertise in the subject area.
  Audience Other scholars, researchers, and students. General public; the interested non-specialist.
  Language Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires expertise in subject area  (or a good specialized dictionary!). Vocabulary in general usage; easily understandable to most readers.
  Graphics Graphs, charts, and tables; very few advertisements and photographs. Graphs, charts and tables; lots of glossy advertisements and photographs.

  Layout &

Structured; generally includes the article abstract, objectives, methodology, analysis, results (evidence), discussion, conclusion, and bibliography. Informal; may include non-standard formatting. May not present supporting evidence or a conclusion.
  Accountability Articles are evaluated by peer-reviewers or referees who are experts in the field; edited for content, format, and style. Articles are evaluated by editorial staff, not experts in the field; edited for format and style.
  References Always has a list of references or bibliography; sources of quotes and facts are cited and can be verified. Rarely has a list of references; usually does not give complete information about sources of information.
  Examples Annals of MathematicsJournal of Abnormal PsychologyHistory of Education Quarterly, almost anything with Journal in the title.

TimeNewsweekThe NationThe Economist

Adapted from a LibGuide by Beth Rohloff at Tufts University's Tisch Library.

You will also need to determine the reliability and credibility of online resources. Fact checkers go beyond the information presented on a website to determine reliability. They use lateral reading to find out more about the author and to evaluate their supporting evidence. 

Web Literacy: Four Moves and a Habit

Peer-Reviewed Articles

Peer-reviewed or refereed articles are articles are written by experts and have been reviewed by other experts in the field. This process ensures that the information presented in the article is based on factual and scientific data.

It's easy to limit your search to peer-reviewed journals in most databases. For example, in Academic Search Complete, there's an option on the main search page under "Limit your results" to limit the search to scholarly (peer reviewed) journals:

Peer Review check-box

You can also limit your results after you've done a search in OneSearch and the most library databases by clicking the Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals box in the left margin next to the results:

Peer Review check-box

Keep in mind that not everything appearing in a peer-reviewed journal is a peer-reviewed article; there are also book reviews, editorials, etc.