Evaluating Resources for your Research Assignments

What to consider when determining if a source is credible and relevant for your research topic

How to Read a Scholarly Article

Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed vs. Popular Resources

emojis of newspaper magazine book download and books

Scholarly, peer-reviewed resources

You will often be asked to find scholarly, peer-reviewed sources for your assignments. What does this mean? 

Scholarly sources:

  • Have an abstract (a summary) at the top of the article
  • Feature in-depth, original research
  • Use specialized vocabulary
  • Provide lots of references and citations and include a bibliography at the end of the article
  • Have been reviewed for validity by other experts in the same field, the author's peers (hence the term peer-reviewed) 

3 ways to know for sure that an article is peer-reviewed: 

  1. Use the "Scholarly & Peer-Reviewed" filter when searching library resources. Not sure what that means? Check out the library's Research: A Quick Start Guide or ask a librarian. 
  2. If you're looking at a specific article that you find using the library website, click the title of the publication the article is published in, if it's linked. This will likely take you to an "about" section where it will tell you if the journal is peer-reviewed
  3. Google the title of the journal. This will also likely take you to an "about" page for the journal. 

Popular Resources

When we talk about popular resources, we don't mean which table they sit at in the cafeteria, but that they are meant for a popular audience aka the general public. 

Popular sources:

  • Are intended for a wide audience (people with different backgrounds, knowledge levels, etc.)
  • Are written to entertain, inform, or persuade
  • Typically follow editorial or journalistic standards, but are not peer-reviewed
  • Will not provide a reference list at the end of the article, but will cite sources in their writing (ex: "According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control...") or will provide direct quotes from a witness or source.

Examples of popular sources: 

  • Magazines (Time, Newsweek, Teen Vogue, The New Yorker, Slate)
  • Newspapers (Bangor Daily News, Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times)

Scholarly, Peer-Reviewed vs. Popular Resources

Peer-Reviewed vs. Popular Resources

peer reviewed and popular resources: What's the difference?

Peer-reviewed resources have an abstract.

You'll typically find the abstract at the top of the beginning of the article. The abstract summarizes the articles, its purpose and conclusions.

screenshot of a section of an article titled abstract is highlighted

Peer-reviewed resources feature in-depth, original research, and use specialized vocabulary.

 In this article excerpt, you can see scientific names for species like "paralytic shellfish" and "dinoflagellates of the genus Alexandrium."

screenshot of a scientific article with specialized vocabulary highlighted

Peer-reviewed resources provide lots of references and citations.

You will typically find a full list of references at the end of the article.

screenshot of the end of an articles, the references section is highlighted

Peer-reviewed resources have been reviewed for validity by other experts in the same field.

This is a screenshot of the about section of the Journal of Plankton Research, which states that the journal is peer-reviewed.

screenshot of an about section saying a journal is peer-reviewed

Popular resources are intended for a wide audience and are written to inform, entertain, or persuade.

These are just a few examples of common popular resources.

logos for several popular resources new york times, wall street journal, time magazine, etc.

Popular resources follow editorial standards, but are not peer-reviewed.

Here is an example of how the New York Times transparently explains their editorial standards and how the organization ensures it's adhering to those standards. 

screenshot from the new york times website highlighting ethical journalism

Popular resources will not provide a reference list at the end of the article, but will cite sources in their writing.

In this example from a New Yorker article, the author is drawing a connection between fences and other property borders to class divides.


screenshot of a paragraph of a new yorker article. The text reads
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