Evaluating Books, Journals, Journal Articles and Websites

This guide will provide some tips for evaluating the books, articles and websites you find when researching for an assessment task.

Introduction

There are a number of questions you should ask about a journal article before using it as a research resource.

These questions focus on 2 areas:

  • authority (i.e. author / editor / publisher details)
  • content

Test yourself - evaluating articles

Check the journal's editor/publisher or the journal article's author

Questions to ask:

  • Is the author an expert in the field?
  • What work or educational experiences does the author have?
  • With which institution, organisation or company is the author affiliated?
  • Has the author written other publications?
  • Is the publisher well known?
  • Does the publisher stand to benefit from the research or argument presented in the article?

Note:

  • Find information about the credibility of the author by checking biography details using a search engine such as Google.

  • Use Library Search, Google Scholar and Amazon.com to check for other publications written by the same author.

  • Use Google to check information about the publisher. Is the publisher a recognised scholarly publisher? Such publishers include Springer, Academic Press, Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Blackwell Publishing, CRC Press, Routledge, Wiley, Interscience, Harcourt, Blackwell Synergy, Nature Publishing, Macmillan.

Check the journal or journal article's content

When evaluating the content of an article, you need to check if it is accurate and relevant

Questions to ask:

  • Does the title indicate that the article is too specific or not specific enough? Is there a subtitle with more information?
  • What audience is the article directed towards?
  • Does the article address a topic from a certain timeframe and/or geographic area?
  • What sources did the author use?
  • Is the information current and up-to-date? Does it need to be?
  • Is the article peer reviewed i.e. from a refereed journal?
  • Is only information from peer-reviewed articles required?

 Note

  • In terms of finding scholarly journal articles, you may be required to find only peer reviewed journal articles. In some instances, you may be able to limit your search results to this type of journal article or you may have to refer to  the Library's Ulrichsweb database to check if the journal from which the article was retrieved has been refereed.)

  • Check the Anatomy of a Scholarly Article to find out what a scholarly article generally looks like.  Please note that this is only one example of the format of a scholarly article. Scholarly articles can also contain headings such as methodology, discussion of results etc.

  • Scan the introduction for a statement on why the article was written and what the author hopes to accomplish with it. Often the author will also let you know what perspective of bias he/she brings to the topic.

  • Look for a reference list/bibliography. This list shows you what kind of sources the author used to write the article.

  • Browse the Abstract to see what the article covers.

  • Search library databases (e.g. Scopus) and Google Scholar to find out how many times the article has been cited by others.

  •  Look at the subject headings assigned to a search result to help you check for content relevance.

  • When deciding if an article's content is current, check the publication date and the dates of the references used in the article's reference list/bibliography.

  • Articles with numerous typographical mistakes, grammatical errors or other inaccuracies, are not reliable.