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ENGL 100 /105 Terzakis/Maher/Malavade: Evaluating Information

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Finding peer-reviewed, academic and scholarly articles in database

OneSearch search field and database drop-down menu on library homepage

Many papers you'll write in college require "peer-reviewed articles." The "peers" reviewing these articles are experts in the same field as the author; for instance, physics professors will review a physics professor's article.

A professor or other expert submits their article to the editor of a journal in their field. For instance, a psychology professor might submit an article to the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. A physicist would submit a paper to  Applied Physics journalThe editors of these academic journals then ask  the authors' peers - other professors or experts in this field - to evaluate the submitted articles. Those experts then submit their comments and reviews back to the editor, who returns them to the author, who answers the criticisms and rewrites portions of the article to satisfy his "peer" reviewers.

Academic, scholarly and peer-reviewed mean the same thing

You can see why this review of articles would takes months or years. This lengthy review process explains why peer-reviewed journals - also known as scholarly or academic journals - publish only two or four times a year.

Your instructors want to know you can find peer-reviewed articles. This means using limiters to narrow your search results in databases to find these articles. Librarians can help you with this. Databases vary greatly and each offers different features. We can't cover them all here, but we can use a search in one of the more widely used databases as an example. Start from the library's homepage (Links to an external site.) and click on the "Articles" tab, shown in black in the illustration below. From the left drop-down menu, we'll use a database that includes nearly 4,000 full-text, peer-reviewed journals, Academic Search Complete, highlighted in blue, above

Have you P.R.O.V.E.N. that your source is a good one?

How do you judge whether a website is credible? Some of hallmarks of a credible website are:

  • Purpose: How and why was the source created?
    • Why does this information exist? To educate, inform, persuade, sell or entertain? Do the authors, publishers, or sponsors state this purpose, or try to disguise it?
    • Who is the intended audience? The general public, students, experts?
  • Relevance: The value of the source to your needs.
    • Is the type of source appropriate for how you plan to use it and for your assignment's requirements?
    • How useful it the information in this source, compared to other sources?
    • How detailed is the information? Is it too general or too specific? Is it too basic or too advanced?
  • Objectivity: The reasonableness and completeness of the information
    • Do the authors present the information thoroughly and professionally?
    • Do they use strong, emotional, manipulative or offensive language?
  • Verifiability: The accuracy and truthfulness of the information
    • Do the authors support their information with factual evidence?
  • Expertise: The authority of the authors and the source
    • ​What makes the authors, publishers or sponsors of the source authorities on the topic?
  • Newness: The age of the information
    • Is your topic in an area that requires current information, such as science, technology or current events? Or could information found in older sources still be useful and valid?

Who wrote it? Who is the intended audience? Domains reveal website authors and audience

The last three letters of a url (uniform resource locator) or link will tell you a great deal about who owns a website, who writes the content and what their purpose is. To find out more about a website, check it on Whois.

TLD* Abbreviation for: Who uses it Url of example website
.com commercial commercial entities https://www.amazon.com/
.edu education universities and colleges https://www.berkeley.edu/
.gov government U.S. government  https://www.usgs.gov/
.net network network infrastructure https://www.slideshare.net/
.org organization nonprofit organizations https://www.sierraclub.org/
.mil military U.S. military https://www.marines.mil/

*top-level domain

Evaluating websites

In this exercise, you and a few classmates will examine a website. Click on your assigned link to find:

  • The top-level domain name. Does the url end in .com, .edu, .gov, .mil, or .org? What does that tell you about the purpose of the website, the authors and the intended audience?
  • The purpose of the website. Find an "About Us" page or a "mission statement."
  • How current is the information on the website? Sometimes a date is on a recent post. Often there will be a full date or the year at the bottom of the page. Look for the phrase "Last updated."
  • Evaluate whether you find the information reliable. Is the language neutral? Is it sensational or emotional? Does the website look authoritative and professional?
Link Top-level domain Author & audience Date

Website One

     

Website Two

     

Website Three

     

Website Four

     
Website Five      

 

Scholarly vs. popular sources

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