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CS1022 Learning in a digital environment Guide: Source Quality Checklists

Scholarly Sources of Information

The right information depends on the purpose of the information

Scholarly sources:

  • Latest research and most up-to-date information:
    • Journal articles – particularly peer reviewed journals (more on that shortly)
  • Background information and well-known, established facts:
    • Books (for a scholarly audience)
  • Definitions and descriptions:
    • Books,
    • dictionaries,
    • encyclopedias
    • (try Credo for subject specific reference material)

General and background sources:

  • News and information about what people are doing “in the field”:
    • Trade journals,
    • non-peer reviewed (but still reputable) journals,
    • some popular magazines (e.g. New Scientist, National Geographic)
  • Popular opinion and general knowledge:
    • Newspapers,
    • popular magazines,
    • Wikipedia

Creditable websites

Websites need to be as creditable as possible

  • The authors are respected authorities or a creditable institution (e.g. Government departments – website authors are often corporate authors, not named people)
  • The purpose/target audience for the site is suitable
  • The information is current
  • The site is well maintained (not riddled with out-dated resources and broken links)
  • The parent website is also reputable and “makes sense”
  • For example, health information from a government-hosted patient information website is a good source of information suitable for creating patient information booklets. Health information from a drug company trying to sell a particular non-prescription medicine is not as creditable a source


Interrogate all of your sources

Is your source:
  • Scholarly? (How was it published and who is its target audience? Is that appropriate for your information needs?)
  • Current? (How old can information be in your field? Is this up-to-date?)
  • Written by someone with “authority”? (Can you identify the author? Do they have a good reason for knowing about this topic?)
Can you identify:
  • Any biases or omissions?
  • Any ulterior motives?
  • Any flaws in the reasoning or methodology?
  • Where does it sit with other sources of information on this topic?

Identifying research articles

Features of a research article:

  • It is in a peer-reviewed/refereed journal
  • Written by researchers, professionals or experts (check author credentials)
  • Often (but not always) has multiple authors
  • Is a significant length (usually over five pages)
  • Is well researched and has a lot of references
  • Presents new research or analysis, not just recapping someone else’s work
  • Uses professional/expert language (jargon)


Peer-reviewed journals

Peer-reviewed research articles are the top level of scholarly information

Scholarly articles, also called academic articles, are intended for other experts and scholars, rather than the general public.

It's important to note that scholarly journals also publish:

  • editorials
  • book and film reviews
  • letters
  • news articles
  • Commentaries, columns and feature articles

So while peer-reviewed research articles are found in peer-reviewed journals, not everything in a peer-reviewed journal is a peer-reviewed research article.


Scholarly books

You can evaluate books and chapters of edited books with this checklist:

  • The authors are researchers/professionals/experts in the field
  • The editors are too (for an edited book)
  • The target audience is suitable for your information purposes (i.e., textbooks for university students, or books for researchers/professionals in the field – NOT books written for a popular audience)
  • The language is professional and technical
  • The book/chapter has a good reference list showing the authors’ research
  • The publisher is a well known scholarly publisher or university/institution
  • It is the most current edition of the book
  • The book has been published recently (depending on the field)

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