Evaluating Books, 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.

Why use journal articles?

Journal articles


  • The articles found in many scholarly journals go through a "peer-review" process. In other words, the articles are checked by academics and other experts. The information is therefore reliable.
  • As well as containing scholarly information, journal articles can include reports and/or reviews of current research and topic-specific information. 
  • Scholarly journals take less time to publish than books, even though the peer-review process can be lengthy.



  • Scholarly journals include information of academic interest, so they are not the best sources for general interest topics.
  • Because the peer-review process can be time-consuming, they may not include up-to-the minute news or current event information.


Use scholarly journals when you need original research on a topic; articles and essays written by scholars or subject experts; factual documented information to reinforce a position; or references lists that point you to other relevant research. ,


Before you use an article for your research, ask yourself questions about its:

  • authority (author/editor and publisher credentials)
  • content (accurate, relevant, up-to-date)

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

Is the author an expert in the field?
  • Find information about the credibility of the author by checking biography details on the book's jacket or within the book itself.
  • Do some extra checking for education, experience, and affiliations.
    • If the affiliation is a company, does the author work in the area that he or she is writing about? That indicates professional experience.
    • If the author works at a research institute or university, check the author profile from that institution to see what his or her experience and expertise are.
Has the author written other publications?
  • Use Library Search, Library databases and internet search engines to check for other publications written by the same author.
  • See if the author has an online profile page listing his or her publications.
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

Is the information current and up-to-date? Does it need to be?
  • Have you been asked to find sources from a specific date range, e.g. in the last 5 years?
  • How old is the information? Check the publication date and the dates of the references used in the bibliography.
Does the content answer part of your research question?
  • Do the subject headings in the Library Search or Database record match your topic?
  • Read the abstract in the Library Search or Database record to see if it covers your topic.
  • Does the article give you the information you need to answer your question?
  • If you need information about a specific country or area, does the article focus on it?
Who is the intended audience for the article?
  • Is this article written for an expert or academic audience? Check the Anatomy of a Scholarly Article opens in a new window to find out what a scholarly article generally looks like. Please note that this is only one example of format. Scholarly articles can also contain headings such as Methodology and Results.
  • Is it written for practitioners? (The language is less formal. Articles are usually shorter and more likely to have coloured headings and illustrations.)
Is it peer reviewed? Does it need to be?
  • Have you been asked to find scholarly, peer reviewed or refereed articles?
  • Did you use the Library Search or Database filter to limit your search to scholarly or peer reviewed content?
  • You can use UlrichsWeb database opens in a new window to check on a journal by name. If you see a black and white referee's t-shirt icon beside the journal name, it is refereed. Articles in a refereed journal are peer reviewed.
What sources did the author use?
  • Look at the reference list to see what kind of sources the author used to write the article.
  • Look for graphs or tables of data that indicate experiments or other primary research done by the authors.
Is there bias?
  • Is there emotional language?
  • Did you find opposing or one-sided viewpoints?
  • Can you detect prejudice, stereotypes, deception, or manipulation?
  • What cultural points of view might be present?


Note: Articles with numerous spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, or other inaccuracies are not reliable

Test yourself - evaluating articles