Department of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum

Tips for evaluating what you find, whether from library databases or online

Academic vs. Scholarly Sources

What's the difference between academic, scholarly, peer-reviewed, and refereed journal articles? While those terms aren't fully interchangeable, they are all very similar. Academic or scholarly journals are published in every academic discipline. Articles in these journals are written by researchers, often experts, in their respective fields of study.

Peer-reviewed or refereed journals also contain articles by researchers and experts but before articles are published, they go through a read/review process. Here's how it works: I send my article to the American Journal of Journals to see if they'll publish it. They contact several people in my field and ask them to review my work and make recommendations to the editors as to whether they should accept or reject my article. Academic or scholarly journals may also be peer-reviewed or refereed journals but they might not so check carefully.

For a more in-depth look visit the Reviewed/Refereed Articles guide.


Evaluating Internet Sources

AUTHORITY Arrow icon Is it clear who sponsors the creation and maintenance of the page?
   Arrow icon Is there information describing the sponsor (its purpose, address, telephone number, etc.)
   Arrow icon Is it clear who developed and wrote the material? Is the author's professional or institutional affiliation given?
   Arrow icon Is the information from a reputable university, library, organization or government agency?
   Arrow icon If the information is found on a commercial site, can you be fairly sure it is factual?


OBJECTIVITY  Arrow icon Does the author or sponsor of the site have a vested or commercial interest in the topic? Does the information seem biased?
   Arrow icon Is the information factual or opinion? If the information is opinionated, is that made clear?
   Arrow icon Is the information provided as a public service?
   Arrow icon Is there advertising on the page?
   Arrow icon If there is advertising, is it clearly separated from the informational content?


RELIABILITY  Arrow icon Is there a creation and/or revision date?
   Arrow icon Is there an e-mail address to contact the author or sponsor?
   Arrow icon Are there links back to the main page? Links to other pages within the site? Links to outside sites? Are most links in working order?


CAUTIONS  Arrow icon Be sure to copy the document's URL, the last revision date, and the date you found the document.
   Arrow icon You might want to print or save a copy (not just a bookmark) in case your professor wants some proof it existed if s/he can't find it again.



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