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Astronomy: Peer reviewed sources vs. websites

What is peer review, and why check for it?

Peer review matters, especially in the sciences.

If an article has been peer-reviewed, that means an independent group of experts in that subject area have evaluated the research methods used, looked closely at the author's conclusions (including any statistical analysis), and judged them to be good science. It doesn't mean that the experts liked the article - just that they think its science is solid. 

Peer review is expensive and time-consuming, so usually only scholarly, academic journals use it for research articles. If an article in one of those journals has been peer-reviewed, you can trust its Authority and Accuracy.

Astronomy Evaluating Websites Exercise

How to Use Wikipedia

wikipedia logo

Even if  your instructor has told you not to use Wikipedia as a source, you can use it to find other sources through the References, Further Reading, and External Links at the end of the articles.

  • Wikipedia and other encyclopedias, whether in print or online, do not qualify as scholarly resources. 
  • Encyclopedias are a good place to start your research, but not are generally not considered acceptable sources to cite.
  • The collaborative and dynamic nature of Wikipedia presents a number of additional concerns regarding the quality and authority of the entries. 

Popular vs. scholarly, academic or peer-reviewed sources

Instructors asking you to use credible sources use to evaluate your citations to see whether you use scholarly, academic or peer-reviewed sources or popular sources. See the box below to determine whether a source is "scholarly" or "popular."

The chief difference between peer-reviewed, academic and scholarly sources and popular sources is how long it takes to publish the information.

  • Newspapers and websites that publish every day are popular sources.
  • Magazines that publish every week or month are popular sources.
  • Journals that publish two or four times a years are often academic or scholarly sources.