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Evaluating Information and Avoiding Fake News

Peer Reviewed Sources

Image of referee
Peer review or refereeing is a journal editing process that ensures articles meet standards of good scholarship. Academic articles and papers are examined by a panel of other scholars in the field (the author's peers). The panel may decide to accept the paper, recommend revision, or reject it completely. Peer-reviewed resources are considered to be the most reliable sources. (But always consider other elements such as currency and coverage.) Many professors require you to only use peer-reviewed resources in assignments.

Not all journals use a peer review process. You can verify whether a journal is peer reviewed by finding information about the editorial board at the front of the print journal or looking at the websites for print and e-journals.

Some databases allow you to narrow your search to return only peer-reviewed results. While different in each database, look for an option that says "scholarly," "Refereed," or "Peer-reviewed."

Popular Sources

Intention:       To inform and entertain a general audience.

Appearance:  Generally contain few colorful photographs. May have technical charts and graphs as necessary.

Scope:           Articles are shorter, more superficial, often including a generalized overview of topics. May be useful as introductory background reading to a new subject.

Language:     Language is generally non-technical with no specialist knowledge assumed. Unfamiliar terms and concepts are usually defined.

Author:          The authors are often journalists with little or no specialist knowledge of the subject.  Their credentials are rarely given.

Research:       No original research other than background reading and interviews is involved.

References:    Rarely cites sources.

Peer Review:  Articles are approved for publication by the editor.

Adapted from James Cook University. (2011, November 3).Evaluating Sources. James Cook University Library,

Scholarly Sources

Intention:     To present and/or report on original research.

Appearance:  Usually colorful and attractive; articles often have lots of illustrations and photographs.

Scope:            Articles are longer, more in-depth and narrowly focused. There is usually an abstract (summary) of the article.

Language:     Technical language (jargon) which assumes specialized background knowledge.

Author:           Authors' credentials as an expert are explicitly presented, usually on the first page.

Research:       Presents the results of original research.

References:    All articles are rigorously referenced with all sources cited. Usually contains footnotes and bibliography.

Peer Review: Articles are approved for publication after review by the author's scholarly peers.