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 many different types of information sources each chararacterised by different conventions and target audiences. 

Scholarly sources disseminate research and academic discussion among professionals within disciplines.

Non scholarly sources inform and entertain the public (e.g. popular sources such as newspapers, magazines) or allow practitioners to share industry, practice, and production information (e.g. trade sources such as non-refereed journals published for people working in the teaching profession).

The link below provides very brief analyses of whether particular information sources are scholarly or non-scholarly.

Differences between scholarly and non-scholarly sources

Scholarly Source Non-Scholarly Source
Articles or books are written by scholars/academics or a professional in the field. Articles or books may be written by a professional writer, e.g. journalist, who is not an expert in the field.
Authors always cite their sources of information (e.g. use in-text referencing, provide a reference list or a bibliography) Authors rarely offer details about the sources of information i.e. they do not use in-text referencing or supply a reference list or bibliography.
Text may provide research results, include specialized vocabulary, and is aimed at a scholarly audience. Text reports events or opinions and is aimed at a general audience (easy to read).
Book or journal cover and pages tend to be plain in design. Depending on discipline area, there may be few or no pictures or graphics. Book, journal or website tends to be highly pictorial. Journals (magazines) and websites accept advertising.
Sources are generally published to share research findings. May be published by scholarly societies, research bodies, specialised publishers including university and college publishers. Sources are generally published for profit. May be intended as a vehicle of opinion - political, moral, or ethnic.
Authors are always named, and generally their institutional affiliation is provided. Authors may be anonymous.
Journal issues are likely to be successively numbered (e.g. issue 1, pp. 1-356, or vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 357-585 etc.) Journal (magazine) issues are likely to begin with page 1.
Journal issues tend to be published less often (monthly, quarterly, semi-annually). Journal (magazine) issues tend to be published more frequently (monthly, weekly, daily).
Books and journals would usually be found in an academic library or in an academic's office. Books and magazines may be found at a bookstore, newsagent, and/or public library.
Examples: Articles in the International Journal of Education and Journal of Educational Psychology or books written by academics and published by a university press. Examples: Articles in Time and Educause Quarterly, or books written by a journalist or professional writer and published by commercial publishers.

 

Adapted from: St Charles Community College. (2008). Scholarly vs Non-Scholarly Sources. Retrieved from 
http://www.stchas.edu/library/scholar.shtml