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ENGR 1031: Fundamentals of Engineering: Evaluating Sources

Fall 2018

Source Evaluation Activity

Guiding Questions

When you are evaluating sources, it's a good idea to keep certain guiding questions in your mind. Some questions that you might consider are as follows:

  1. Who is the author? What is his or her background? Are they an expert?
  2. What type of source is it? Is it scholarly? Is it peer-reviewed?
  3. Who is the intended audience? Is it something everyone has access to or only selected users
  4. What organization is publishing the article? Might there be a bias or an agenda?
  5. How was the information derived? Was it based on independent research or is it the author's opinion without evidence to support it?
  6. If they use sources, what types of sources are they using? How do you know those sources are reliable?

One tip that may help you in your search for relevant and quality information is when you find a source that is directly on point with your research question(s) look to see if they author has any references. If they do, you may be able to use some of them for your own paper. You can also research the author(s) to see if they have other publications that may be helpful to you.

How Do I Know If An Article Is Scholarly?

Your professor assigned a research paper that requires you to use scholarly sources. What does "scholarly" mean? How do you know if you've found a scholarly article?

What does scholarly mean?

A scholarly article introduces new knowledge based on original research or experimentation. Many scholarly articles undergo a process called peer-review. In this process, experts in the field scrutinize articles before they are published, resulting in a body of quality scholarly information.

How do you know if you've found a scholarly article?

If you find an article through a web search, you need to determine if it is scholarly. Even if you find an article in a database, you may not be looking at a scholarly article as some databases index many types of publications. Use this chart to help you distinguish between scholarly and popular publications.

Characteristic Scholarly Popular
Advertisements Few, usually for publications Numerous, color
Appearance Black and white, plain, charts, graphs Color, slick, glossy, illustrations, photographs
Audience Professors, researchers General public
Author Scholar, academic, expert Journalists
Editing Peer review Magazine editors
Language Specialized vocabulary Simple, accessible
Publisher University press, research institutes, scholarly press, professional organizations Commercial, for-profit
Purpose/Intent Original research, methodology, theory Entertain, inform, sell, promote
Documentation Footnotes, bibliographies, works cited Sources rarely cited

Many times scholarly articles are sufficient for your research, but if your article must be peer-reviewed, you will need to find that information in the Serials Directory. Search for the journal that the article appeared in. Serials Directory will then tell you if the articles in that publication are considered scholarly and if they undergo a peer-review process.

Still need help? Ask a librarian.

Peer Review

The video below recaps the peer review process. The following are additional important criteria to consider as you complete your papers:

  • become familiar with the major scholars working on your research topic
  • keep an eye out for bias, errors, contradictions, or misinformation
  • research the sponsorship of the research study
  • consider intercultural, political, international, and ethnic influences or perspectives
  • visit this guide made by librarians at UNC for more in-depth information on evaluation