Ask A Librarian

Evaluating Sources

Guidelines on how to evaluate sources for academic integrity.

Evaluating Journal Articles
Evaluating Websites
Peer-reviewed Journals vs. Popular Magazines vs. Trade Publications
Primary vs. Secondary Sources
Types of Behavioral Sciences Articles

Evaluating Journal Articles

Evaluate journal articles on the following main characteristics: sources cited, reputation of publisher, reputation of author, reliable information, and current information. Follow the guidelines in the evaluating journals checklist.

Journal example of an acceptable source

Evaluating Journals Checklist
  1. Citation of sources:
    Are the author's sources accurate and reliable? Are the authors sources cited? Are the sources current?

  2. Publisher reputation:
    Is the publisher a respected source of academic scholarship and free of bias?

  3. Author reputation:
    Is the author an expert on the topic? Is the author affiliated with a special-interest group? If alternate views are presented and addressed, does the author portray them fairly? What are the author's other publications? Has the author published on the topic in other publications?

  4. Date of publication:
    Is the source current? If the source is older, are there any newer sources that validate or invalidate this source?

  5. Primary and secondary sources:
    Is this the original (primary) source, or is this a secondary interpretation of the primary source? Would the primary source add more validity to the paper?

  6. Audience:
    Who is the source's audience? Proponents or opponents? Other scholars?

  7. Cross-reference:
    Is the source widely cited in other sources?

Evaluating Websites

Websites require an additional level of evaluation because they often lack the same type of editorial oversight that exists in the scholarly publishing industry. For example, Wikipedia is not an acceptable academic source. When evaluating a website answer the following questions.

Note: websites that may contain reliable information include:
Colleges and universities, identified by .edu
Professional organizations and societies, identified by .org
Federal government agencies and departments, identified by .gov

Wikipedia example of an unacceptable source

Evaluating Websites Checklist

Peer-reviewed Journals vs. Popular Magazines vs. Trade Publications

Excellence in academic writing relies on academic and peer-reviewed sources. Review the following characteristics that distinguish peer-reviewed journals, popular magazines, and trade publications.

Instructions: How to search for peer-reviewed journal articles in the library databases.

Peer-reviewed Journals

Peer-reviewed journals are evaluated for content, precision, and methodology by a board of expert scholars in the field (the author;s peers). The peer review board members are listed on the inside cover page and on the journal's website.
Examples:Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, International Journal of Business and Management
Popular Magazines
Examples : Newsweek, Time, Psychology Today
Trade Publications
Book Business, Publishing Executive, ABA Banking Journal

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

The principle distinction between a primary source and a secondary source is firsthand versus secondhand reporting. If the author directly participated in the research or observation, then the source is a primary source. If the author summarizes or analyzes information from other sources, it is a secondary source.

Primary Sources

A primary source is a firsthand report of observations or research results written by the individuals who conducted the original research or witnessed the event. Primary sources may include original research articles published in academic journals, in which the authors describe their own research study. Other primary sources may include : theses and dissertations, conference presentations of research results, government documents, letters, manuscripts, diaries, memoirs, or interviews.

To assure that a main idea or argument is accurate and credible, seek out primary scholarly sources from authorities in the field.
Examples : original research study published in a journal, The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
Secondary Sources

A secondary source is a summary or analysis of other researchers' works. A secondary source is written by someone who did not participate in the research or observations being discussed. Secondary sources are useful for gaining a broad overview of current research.
Examples : review of recent studies published in a journal, encyclopedia article

Types of Behavioral Sciences Journal Articles

Defining characteristics of types of journal articles available thru the library databases.

Original Research/Clinical Study
Article reporting on the results of a clinical study or experiment, written by the person(s) who conducted the research. Research articles are a type of primary source. Keywords in research articles include: participants, data, methodology.
Research Study example
Anderson, P. L., Price, M., Edwards, S. M., Obasaju, M. A., Schmertz, S. K., Zimand, E., & Calamaras, M. R. (2013). Virtual reality exposure therapy for social anxiety disorder: A randomized controlled trial. Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology, 81(5), 751-760. doi:10.1037/a0033559

Article summaries a collection of data obtained from questionnaires designed to assess a particular population.
Survey example
Robertson, S. (2011). Serving the gifted: A national survey of school psychologists. Psychology In The Schools, 48(8), 786-799.

Meta-analysis is the use of statistical procedures to summarize the results of statistical analyses from multiple, related studies for the purposes of drawing general conclusions. This summary often involves explaining variation in results over studies. Meta-analysis is distinguished from secondary analysis in that the information used in meta-analysis comes from statistical summaries of the data in the original studies and not directly from the raw data themselves. Source
Meta-analysis example
Sarin, F. (2011). Cognitive behavior therapy for schizophrenia: A meta-analytical review of randomized controlled trials. Nordic Journal Of Psychiatry, 65(3), 162-174.

Case Study
Reports of case materials obtained by working with an individual, group, community or organization. Case studies generally illustrate a problem and indicate a means of solving a problem.
Case Study example
Rafaeli, A. K., & Markowitz, J. C. (2011). Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT) for PTSD: A case study. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 65(3), 205-23.

Discourse Analysis
Discourse analysis is the study of social life, understood through analysis of language in its widest sense (including face-to-face talk, non-verbal interaction, images, symbols and documents). Source
Discourse Analysis example
Larsson, P. (2012). Counselling psychology and schizophrenia: A critical discursive account. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 25(1), 31-47.

Theoretical Review
Authors draw on existing research to advance theory. Authors trace the development of theory and expand and refine theoretical constructs.
Theoretical Review example
Ameli, M., & Dattilio, F. M. (2013). Enhancing cognitive behavior therapy with logotherapy: Techniques for clinical practice. Psychotherapy, 50(3), 387-391. doi:10.1037/a0033394

Literature Review
An overview and critical evaluation of articles published on a topic; may discuss gaps in the literature.
Literature Review example
Larsson, P. (2012). Counselling psychology and diagnostic categories: A critical literature review. Counselling Psychology Review, 27(3), 55-67.

Other types of articles: brief reports, commentary, replies on previously published articles, book reviews, letters to the editors.

Ask A Librarian | Leave Feedback | Site Map

California Southern University
3330 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa, CA92626
For more information call (800) 477-2254. Library extension: 8023
From outside the U.S. and Canada, call (714) 480-0800.
FAX (714) 480-0834
Copyright 2006 All rights reserved.
Privacy Statement