Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
Golden Gate University Logo

Research Process: An Overview: Evaluating Your Sources

This guide outlines the steps in the research process from developing a topic to crediting sources.

Scholarly versus Popular

Periodicals are print sources that are published weekly, monthly or quarterly, such as magazines, newspapers and  journals. Instructors may require a variety of sources or limit sources to scholarly journals.

Scholarly Journals — contain articles written by professionals in the field. The articles may be original research or an extension of previous research, illustrated with graphs, tables and have a list of references at the end. Articles submitted to a scholarly journal are peer-reviewed or juried, meaning other experts read and suggest revisions to the author before the final version is accepted for publication.

Popular magazines — are not in-depth enough to be scholarly. The magazine may have an area of interest. Parenting is devoted to raising children and Time is a news magazine, but the articles are intended as overviews for general readers. Authors may or may not be named, there may be illustrations or charts, but there won't be a bibliography at the end.

Further Reading...

Know Your Sources

Know Your Sources

When doing research you will come across a lot of information from different types of sources. How do you decide which source to use? From tweets to newspaper articles, this tool provides a brief description of each and breaks down 6 factors of what to consider when selecting a source.

Website Evaluation

Because the web is self-published, it requires the most critical analysis before use in a research paper. 

Beyond the basic criteria mentioned for all resources look for additional proof of value in websites. Some hoax sites look very credible until viewed with a critical eye. Look for: 

  • Mission/Vision/Purpose Statement — reveals purpose of the website and point of view. 
  • Credentials — a well-regarded sponsoring organization or an expert author. (Webpage content may not list an individual author.) 
  • Date of last revision — this reveals how recently the content of a website has been reviewed. 
  • Contact information — is there a physical address and telephone number the researcher can use to contact a real person with questions? 
  • Loaded language — words that assign emotional value can be used to manipulate attitude. “Patriot” sounds better than “vigilante,” “insurgency” less scary than “civil war.” 
  • Links — do other reputable websites link to the website and does it link to other reputable sites. 

Evaluating Sources: The Basics

A critical step in the research process is evaluating the information you found.  It is important to select information that comes from a reputable source. Below are questions to ask yourself when evaluating books, magazines and websites.

Publisher — who published or sponsored this work? Are they reputable?

Credentials — who is the author (or authors)? Are qualifications or degrees listed?

Accuracy — can the information be verified in other respected sources?

Currency — is the information’s publishing date current enough for the topic of the research paper? For subject area that change frequently, like medicine, politics or finance, use the most up-to-date information.

Bias — does the author or publisher express an opinion (example: newspaper editorial) or is the information factual (like statistics). Does bias affect the information’s accuracy?

Audience — who is the information written for — a specific readership, level of expertise or age/grade level? Is the audience focus appropriate for a research paper?

External sources / tools

Evaluating Sources Worksheet

For a portable and more practical way to evaluate sources, use the worksheet below to vet your sources.

 

To Vet something is "to subject a person or thing to scrutiny; to examine for flaws"
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary