Determining Which Sources Are Appropriate to Use

Evaluate your sources to determine whether resources such as books, articles, and films are relevant and appropriate for your research.

  • What is it about?  
    • Read the title and the abstract (summary) or introduction to know whether a work is really related to the topic you're researching.
  • What is the subject area focus? 
    • Look at the subject field, the title, or the journal title to determine the subject area. For example, if you are researching global warming activism for a political science class, an article on global warming from a chemistry journal will not be focused on political issues.
  • Are you looking for recent information?
    • A recent publication date is very important for certain fields, such as medical and scientific research.
  • What kind of source is it? 
    • Some search results describe the item, or you can tell from the citation. Often your professor requires that you use a specific format, like peer-reviewed journal articles.
  • Is it scholarly? 
    • If you are required to use only scholarly sources, you will need to limit your search accordingly. When searching in databases or OneSearch, check a limiter that says Scholarly and/or Peer-Reviewed, if one is available. If you need further confirmation about which articles come from peer-reviewed journals, you can search for the journal title (not the article title) on the library’s Journals A-Z list; scholarly, peer-reviewed journal titles will have a Peer Reviewed icon. (If a title is not on the Journals A-Z list, you can search UlrichsWeb to determine whether the journal is refereed, which means that it is scholarly and peer-reviewed.) For books, look at the publisher. Is it a university press or other scholarly press?
  • What type of article is it? 
    • Not every article in a scholarly journal will be appropriate for your research. Peer-reviewed journals contain book reviews, editorials, and interviews. Read the abstract or introduction to clarify what the article is about. When in doubt, look at your assignment instructions and/or ask your professor.
  • If it is a research study, what type is it? 
    • Some courses require that you focus on a specific type of research, such as quantitative, qualitative, or experimental. The abstract usually identifies the type of study. When using journal articles, check for a methods section, which describes the type of research used in the study.