The types of sources you use in a research project will depend on the requirements of your assignment. Some assignments emphasize the use of scholarly (peer-reviewed) articles. In other assignments, you might use newspaper or magazine articles, websites or government reports found via Google, and so on. Below are some ways to judge whether an article is appropriate for use in a college-level research project.
Criteria to use when evaluating an article:
- Author credentials and affiliations. Do they specify that the author is from a university or other research organization? (Not all databases include this information.)
- Article publication date. Many subjects (information technology, medicine) require current information. The publication date allows you to judge if the article is up-to-date.
- Article length. A short article is less likely to provide in-depth coverage of your topic than a longer one.
- Abstract. An abstract provides a synopsis, or summary, of the article. Use it to determine if the article is relevant to your topic.
- Scholarly/academic. Articles that are scholarly/academic (peer-reviewed) are vetted and approved by experts in a field. They are reliable sources of information on a subject.
How do I evaluate the actual article to determine if I should include it in my research?
- Audience. Who is the target audience of the article? Scholars? General public?
- Bias. Is the article objective or is it biased toward a particular viewpoint?
- Coverage. Is the article a summary of published works or in-depth reporting of original research? Does it provide any new information? Is the article based on primary or secondary sources?
- Clarity. Is the article easy to follow, with clear conclusions?
- References. Does the article contain a reference list? This demonstrates that the author's conclusions are based on the work of other experts.
How do I evaluate Web sites?
The UMGC Library's Is My Source Credible? guide provides a checklist of evaluation criteria to consider to help you determine the reliability and credibility of Web sites.