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.

Scholarly and non-scholarly sources

Scholarly

Scholarly sources:

  • Are written by scholars/academics or a professional in the field.
  • Always name the authors, and usually give information about which university or institution they work for.
  • Are written to share research findings.
  • Use a specialized vocabulary because they are written for other researchers in the same area.
  • Always cite their sources of information. You should find reference lists or bibliographies at the end of the work.
  • Might not have many pictures or graphics. It depends on the area of research. Sonography, for example, might need medical images to explain research results.
  • Usually have plain designs on the covers.
  • Are published to promote research. Publishers might be scholarly societies, research bodies, or even universities.
  • Are published less frequently, e.g. journal issues tend to be published monthly, quarterly, or semi-annually.
  • Don’t always start on page 1. Journal issues are likely to be successively numbered (e.g. issue 1, pp. 1-356, or vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 357-585 etc.)
  • Are usually found in an academic library or in an academic's office.

Examples:

  • Articles in the Journal of Educational Psychology
  • Books written by academics and published by a university press
Non-scholarly

Non-scholarly sources:

  • Might be written by a professional writer who is not an expert in the field.
  • Don’t always name the authors.
  • Are written about events, and political, moral, or ethnic opinions.
  • Use ordinary language because they are aimed at a general audience.
  • Rarely offer details about the sources of information (i.e. no reference lists or bibliographies).
  • Tend to use a lot of pictures. Magazines and websites also show advertising.
  • Have colourful, decorative covers.
  • Are generally published for profit.
  • Are published more frequently, e.g. magazine issues are usually published weekly or monthly, and newspaper are published daily.
  • Usually start on page 1, like magazines and newspapers do.
  • Can be found at any bookstore and/or public library.

Examples:

  • Articles in Time magazine
  • Books written by a journalist or professional writer and published by commercial publishers