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How to Evaluate Information Sources

This guide will inform you about which criteria to use to evaluate resources

What are Peer Reviewed Journals?

Peer reviewed means that professionals in the field evaluated the source before it was published. Unlike popular sources (such as books, magazines, newspapers, etc.) which are written for a general audience, peer reviewed sources are written by professionals, for professionals.

For example, a peer reviewed source on a topic related to mechanical engineering is meant to be read by other people in the field of mechanical engineering, like professors, students, and other mechanical engineers.


Peer reviewed journals are well respected in the academic community. These are peer reviewed (sometimes called "refereed") to ensure the quality of the research articles in the publications. Most of these journals are published by reputable publishers or university presses. Rigorous criteria must be met before a peer reviewed source is published, so a peer reviewed source is generally better quality than a popular source.



Understanding Peer Review and Original Research

Understanding what Peer Review is All About

What is a peer-reviewed article anyways? What is the big deal about peer review? What is it? How does it work? Why do my instructors ask me to find peer-reviewed articles to use in my paper?

If an article has been "Peer reviewed" it has earned a kind of authority and credibility from an academic/scientific  community. It's a process that research has to go through before it is published. When we're talking about peer review, we're usually talking about scholarly and academic publications. They are usually original research -- research that's never been done before.

Consult these sources to learn more about it: 

What do peer-reviewed articles look like?

What do peer reviewed articles look like? 

Probably the most known peer-reviewed journal is Nature. Take a look at the current issue of Nature -- notice that it has all kinds of articles of interest to a lot of people. -- news, editorials, book reviews. Take a look at the "Research Articles" section. There you will see the peer reviewed articles from Nature such as :

Physiological measurements in social acceptance of self driving technologies

Modeling innovation in the cryptocurrency ecosystem

Human preferences toward algorithmic bias in a word association task

Notice that the articles have a "received" or "submitted", "accepted by" and "published" dates. These are the marking of peer reviewed articles -- finding these dates can be a quick and easy way of identifying peer-reviewed research. These articles also describe an original scientific study or experiment. They follow the scientific method and have sections with names like "Introduction" "Methodology" "Results" etc.  Peer-reviewed articles often, but don't always, have multiple authors whose affiliations are given in the article.

Scholarly vs Popular Articles

Academic/Scholarly Journal Articles:

  • are written by experts (professors and researchers).
  • are intended to be read by other professors, researchers and students.
  • use specialized or technical vocabulary for the field.
  • include a lengthy list of references (citations).
  • are longer and focus more in-depth on research.

Popular Magazine Articles:

  • are written by journalists.
  • are intended to be read by the general public.
  • use language understood by most readers.
  • rarely include formal citations for their sources.
  • are shorter and general in focus.

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