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IDS 101: Dogs - Understanding Our Best Friends: Evaluatiing Sources

What is Peer-Review?

Peer-review is an evaluation process in which qualified individuals within specialized field of study reviews literature before it becomes published.  This process helps keep standards held by the profession, improves the quality of work being published, and provides credibility & reliability to published work & authors publishing the work. The 5-minute video below describes and discusses the importance of peer-review and its process.

(NCSU video, 5 min.)

Authoritative Reference Sources vs Wikipedia

Wikipedia can be a good resource for getting general info about something, but because anyone can contribute or change its content, it is considered unreliable.  College faculty typically do not consider Wikipedia a credible stand-alone information source.

You can turn directly to the sources referenced at the bottom of most Wikipedia entries, to get more detailed information about the nuances & historical items of interest that were summarized by Wikipedia.

You can also supplement or verify the information found in Wikipedia by using the library's print or electronic encyclopedias, dictionaries, or other reference books to backup the basic information of your research paper. These library oriented resources have gone through an editorial process to check for accuracy. 


How to Limit to Peer-Review Journals

Many databases offer a quick way limit your results to peer review literature. Databases, such as Academic Search Premier, have a box to check for scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. Below is a screenshot of a database that has a check-box to limit results only to scholarly, peer-reviewed articles.


These databases can limit results to scholarly articles:

How to Evaluate Resources (Print & Electronic)

1. Reason

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is scope or purpose specifically stated? Do the contents match the stated scope?
  • Is the point of view stated? Is there a particular agenda that is being pushed?
  • Does it have an established reputation? If so, consider what kind of reputation it represents?
  • What is the publisher's or website host's motivation for providing the information? (Advertising for profit, part of agency's mission, educational purposes, reporting original research, publicizing a particular agenda)
  • What information can be gained about a website's domain code of the host address?
.com = commercial source
.gov = government agency
.org = non-profit organization
.net = consortium (profit or non-profit)
.edu = educational institution

2. Readability

Is the text well written? Is it written in the language of the discipline or for a general audience?
Does the source have features, such as charts, illustrations, or a bibliography, that will be helpful?
Is the information needed to cite the material easily found?
Is there a lot of information available or is the information it provides limited?
Does the document provide references to other more detailed resources (either print or online)? Are links to other Web resources labeled clearly?

3. Reliability

Is objectivity a factor?
Who is the author?
Does the author provide credentials demonstrating expertise or knowledge of the subject?
Is the publisher reputable?
Does the resource contain grammatical, spelling or typographical errors?
Is there any contact information provided?
Are facts, such as statistics, accurate, current, and verifiable? Are sources of information cited?
What sources or methods did the author use to gather the information?
Is the method of obtaining data accurate and dependable?
Is it refereed/peer-reviewed or did just a staff editor review it? Peer-review means a scholar or researcher in the related field has reviewed it before publication.
How frequently is the resource updated?
Are the links to other resources current? And is the page finished or still under construction?

4. References

Does the author list where they get their information from (e.g. footnotes, bibliography, or reference list)
Are there many sources listed?
Are the author's sources reliable?
Can you follow their listed sources to obtain the original information sources?

Gary Klein (Reference Librarian)

Gary Klein's picture
Gary Klein
Mark O. Hatfield Library
Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem, OR 97301

Work phone: #503-370-6743

Gary's general work schedule (Fall 2018):
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri = 9:30am--6:30pm
Wed (late start) = 1pm--9pm