When evaluating sources of information you are looking at various types of evaluation:
Use the appropriate sources for your paper or project. Do you need background information, primary sources such as original research data, field notes, interviews, etc. or secondary sources that describe, interpret or analyze such as books or journal articles? See "Types of Information (general)" in the sidebar below.
The source (article, book, etc.) should address one of your information needs. Does it support your argument? Does it provide a different point-of-view? Does it answer one of your questions? Does it tell you something you didn't know, adding to your current understanding? Does it offer analysis of a problem or issue that is pertinent to your topic?
The sources should be accurate and credible, whether they are scholarly books/journals, newspapers, magazines, or websites. The tools on this page will help you.
Pew Research Center:
Independent Fact Checking (politics & Internet rumors):
When using article databases you will typically locate articles that come from a wide range of types of periodicals. The type of information presented and how you use it will vary according to the type of publication.
These publications are written for a general audience. Topics covered are current events, entertainment, and other issues. Articles are usually written by journalists or freelance writers. Articles do not include references to sources used. Most newspapers are popular publications.
Example: Burlington Free Press
Substantive, Trade, & Professional Publications
Substantive Publications offer somewhat more in depth coverage of news and current events/issues than popular titles. Often they are devoted to a particular topic. These publications are targeted at people who have no specialized training in an area but who want more analysis than a popular publication can offer. The authors are a mix of journalists and people who work in a field. Professional Journals are publications that are written for practitioners in a field.
Example: Scientific American
Professional Journals or "Trade Publications" are written for a specific audience or field. They do NOT publish original peer-reviewed research, although they will often refer to original research and scholarship from scholarly publication. Phrases like "Researchers have found ...." or "in a recent study....." generally introduce the scholarship published elsewhere.
Example: Education Week
(also known as academic, refereed or peer-reviewed)
In depth research for a research or academic audience. Authors are researchers or scholars in the discipline. These articles usually include a discussion of the research methods, data, and full references to sources (footnotes). Articles are written for other researchers, scholars, and students specializing in the field. Usually the topics covered are very specialized.
Example: Sustainable Cities and Society
Sometimes it can be challenging to decide exactly which category a title falls into and you may find it useful to think of the various types of publications as all having a place along a continuum.
The Information Continuum
Note: Each of these types of publications has their place. For example you might consult a popular publication to see for yourself how the popular media covers a certain topic (for example, “how is Japanese youth culture today different than 20 years ago”) You would then use a scholarly publication to see how scholars have conducted research on this same topic and what conclusions their research has led them to.
When reading articles ask yourself the following questions to help you to assess what type of publication you are reading:
• Who is the intended audience?
• What authority does the author have to write on the topic covered? Is the author a freelance writer? A practitioner? A scholar?
• What is the point of view of the author (or of the publication as a whole)?
• Who is the producer of the material (and why are they publishing this information?)
• Does the type of information provided meet my research needs?