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Evaluating Information Sources

Provides guidance on evaluating the credibility of information sources, including books, journals, the open Internet, and primary sources.

What is a Scholarly or Peer-Reviewed Journal?

As a general rule, use articles when you're looking for research studies or scholarly analyses of a relatively narrow topic or aspect of a subject or when you need basic information about recent news or events. OneSearch and individual library research databases are the primary tools for identifying and locating articles.

"My professor said I can only use articles from scholarly journals in my paper."

"Scholarly journals" nearly always refers to peer-reviewed journals: those that use a review by subject experts (i.e,, the author's peers, sometimes also called referees) to determine if a manuscript meets intellectual standards for publication.

Most databases and OneSearch include a limiter to narrow results to peer-reviewed journals (the wording may vary slightly): 

Shows limiter selected for scholarly, peer-reviewed journals

If you have questions about whether a specific journal is peer-reviewed, please contact us.

What is a Scholarly Article?

Academic journals sometimes include book reviews, editorials, or other brief items that would not be considered scholarly articles. For clarification, see:

Created to assist journalists, the following overview is helpful to anyone who's new to reading research studies:

Find Information about an Author

Scholarly articles will include brief information about an author's education and credentials. More information may be available on an institutional website where the author works. Additional information sometimes can be found in the following:

Characteristics of Scholarly Journals Compared to Other Types of Periodicals

Periodicals are publications that come out on a regular basis, such as journals, magazines, or newspapers. Many periodicals have both a physical and an online version, and most fall into one of three categories: scholarly or academic journals, trade or industry journals, or popular or consumer magazines.

Article length can vary, but scholarly articles in particular can be quite lengthy compared to articles in trade or popular magazines. Scholarly articles also are written at a high reading level and with terminology that assumes readers have knowledge of the subject discipline (if needed, find background information in general resources).

Corrections, Retractions, and Questionable Sources

Research databases may include document types and/or subject terms to identify errors, corrections, and any retractions of previously published articles. Example from Academic Search Complete:

Sample record with document type "erratum" and subject terms "errata" and "fraud in science"


If retained, a retracted article will be labelled:

PDF article with "Retracted" across the article page


 Additional resources:

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