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BI 221/222/223: Principles of Biology

"Quality" Sources

Instructors may often ask you to find "quality" sources for your research projects. "Quality" is a very subjective term but often times, in the context of scholarly articles, this refers to finding research articles that have gone through peer-review (evaluation of the research and writing by other experts) before being published. The databases on the Find Sources tab of this guide will help you find peer-reviewed research articles.

The questions in the module to the right are all designed to get you thinking about the different aspects of "quality" articles. Take a moment to run through them for each article you are thinking of using.

Identifying Peer Reviewed / Scholarly Sources

Peer reviewed articles are research articles that have been evaluated and approved by other experts in the field before being accepted for publication in a journal. To  identify peer reviewed and scholarly articles, consider these elements:

  1. AUTHOR:  The author is always listed with the credentials that identify the author's expertise, such as university or research affiliation. The author often holds a Ph.D. in the subject area of the article. Contrast this to an author who writes on many different topics.
  2. LANGUAGE:  The article language tends to be formal, sophisticated and technical, using the language that is particular to the discipline in which it is written. It is geared to other researchers in the same subject. Contrast this with popular articles that are written at an informal and basic level for easy understanding by the general public.
  3. CONTENT:  There if often an abstract at the beginning of the article which summarizes the content. The material is analytical in-depth and it often cites to a bibliography of prior research. Contrast this with popular material that is written at a broad level.
  4. GRAPHICS:  Except in the arts and humanities, graphics will tend to be charts and graphs illustrating the results of experiments, surveys, or formulas. Contrast this to popular literature, which is heavily illustrated with colorful pictures.
  5. LENGTH:  Scholarly articles tend to be much longer than popular articles.
  6. ADs: Scholarly literature has few or no ads. Compare this to popular literature which has many ads. This is not always easy to judge in online publications.

NOTE:  In many databases, such as EBSCO, Gale, and ProQuest it is possible to limit to Peer Reviewed/Scholarly.  See illustrations for this at: University of California - Riverside

Evaluate Your Sources

  • Does the source have a bibliography? This can lead you to other sources.
  • Is there an author listed as part of the citation? Judging authority can be difficult without an author.
  • Is the journal refereed (peer reviewed)?
  • How old is the source? Will this matter for your topic? Currency of information can be important. Some aspects of a topic may need currency more than others.
  • What other terminology is being used either by the author or by the database? Keep an eye out for other words you can use in your search statements.
  • Does The Valley Library own the journal (either in print or electronically)? If we don't own it, it will take more time to get your hands on the source.

Where can I get more help?

Contact the OSU Libraries Information Desk