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ALS 150/162: INTO OSU Academic Reading and Writing

Research guide for INTO ALS 150/162

Credible or Quality Sources

Instructors may often ask you to find "credible" or "quality" sources for your research projects. "Credible" and "quality" are very subjective terms but generally your instructor is asking that you spend some time evaluating your sources rather than grabbing the first thing you see when using your favorite search engine. Newspaper articles can be credible or quality sources as can books, but much of the time instructors are asking that you locate scholarly articles. More specifically, scholarly articles that go through peer-review (evaluation of the research and writing by other experts) before being published are said to be credible or of high quality.

You can find credible or quality sources using 1Search. Use the modules on this page to learn more about evaluating your sources, to learn what peer-review is, and to learn how to find peer-reviewed articles in 1Search.

Evaluating Sources

Not everything you find will be of high quality or appropriate to your topic. You need to carefully evaluate your sources before incorporating them into your research. Ask yourself some questions:

  • Is the article peer reviewed (also called refereed)?
  • Is there an author listed as part of the citation? What is the authority of the author and source? Is the author an expert? Does s/he work for a reputable university or organization?
  • Are there biases in the publication?
  • Judge the relevance to your subject and the discipline.
  • Is the information current? Does your subject require it to be?
  • 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.
  • Does the source have a bibliography? This can lead you to other sources.
  • 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.
  • Do the OSU Libraries 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.

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