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LIS 7000 Information & Society

Database information & tutorials, style manuals and literature reviews, evaluating resources

Evaluating Resources

There are some very basic things you should think about when you evaluate information. You probably use these criteria without realizing it, but it's good to see them spelled out.


Who wrote or created the item? Is this person an expert? What credentials does this person have?


Is the item meant to inform, entertain, or persuade?  


Does the item give surface information or does it delve deeply into a topic? Depending on your information need, an item may not be suitable if it gives you too much or too little information.


How reliable is the source? Is it an anonymous blog, an articles in an established journal? Does it cite sources, or are statistics and facts included with no information about where these came from?


When was the item created? Outdated information isn't helpful outside of a historical context. 

The good folks at Vanderbilt University have put today a concise video about the differences between popular and peer-reviewed periodicals.

A Special Note on Professional/Trade Journals

The EBSCO filter for scholarly/peer-reviewed journals sometimes includes journals that are technically trade journals or professional journals (e.g., Library Journal, American Libraries). Although some trade journals do occasionally include scholarly articles, many do not.

Here's a general guide: a scholarly article will have a literature review, something about how the data was collected and analyzed, citations, and a bibliography. 


Watch this short video from the great folks at North Carolina State University Libraries for a clear explanation of the peer-review process.

Not sure if a journal is peer reviewed?

Look it up in Ulrich's Global Serials Directory! Search the title and then check the "Refereed" colomn to find out whether the title is a peer-reviewed journal.

Is everything in a peer-reviewed journal a peer-reviewed article?

So, you used the scholarly/peer-reviewed filter in your search. All of the results qualify as peer-reviewed sources, right? Wrong. 

Book reviews, columns, editorials, letters to the editor, brief news items don't count as peer-reviewed articles.

I've found a peer-reviewed paper that meets the criteria for a good, credible resource. It's related to my topic! I'm adding it to my annotated bibliography right away!

Slow down!

  • Reread the abstract and the article. How closely related to your topic is the article? Just because it has a few of the same keywords or subject headings doesn't mean it's approaching the same topic, issue, or problem.
  • Look over the list of sources you've already found. Do you have a good representation of approaches, or  do all of the articles approach the issue in the same way? Your selection of sources should represent a range of opinions or approaches so you can give a good overview of the scholarly conversation.
  • Look at the publication dates of the articles you've collected. If you are working on a topic that has a long history of scholarly debate (e.g., intellectual freedom), some of your articles should be older, key articles so you can give an overview of the topic over time. Not sure how to find out whether an article is a "key" or "classic" article? Look it up in a citation index; does it have a high number of citations? 
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