When you are beginning an evaluation of your sources, it can be helpful to determine whether they are intended for a scholarly or general/popular audience. Information you find in both types of sources might be useful for your project. These guidelines can help you decide which type of source you have:
|Popular Sources||Scholarly Sources|
|Purpose||Report on current events or entertain||Discuss results of research in detail|
|Author||Journalists or professional writers||Professors or scholars|
|Audience||General public||Researchers in specific academic fields|
|Language||Accessible to a general audience||Specialized to an academic area|
|Sources Cited||May quote experts or interviewees; may include in-text links to sources||Always include an extensive list of cited sources in a bibliography or footnotes|
When you're evaluating information that you find through an online search or through library resources, you can use these questions to help you decide how relevant, credible, and useful a source will be for your project:
There are a lot of variables involved in evaluating sources! The questions below often come up in E110 research projects. Remember that whenever you have questions or run into challenges, you can use Ask the Library to chat with a UD librarian.
There are many different types of sources available through library databases and DELCAT. You will find sources that are traditionally considered “scholarly,” such as peer-reviewed journal articles and books published by university presses. You will also find “popular” sources such as news and magazine articles, books for a general audience, and streaming videos. Your professor might ask you to use only scholarly sources, or they might ask you to use a combination of popular and scholarly sources.
In general, sources you find through library databases have been through a vetting process such as peer-review (for scholarly journal articles) or approval by an editor or publisher (for books, news, and magazine articles). In comparison, sources you find through a Google search may or may not have been approved by an outside authority such as a peer-reviewer or editor. Even though this is the case, you should still take steps to evaluate both the credibility and relevance of a source for your specific topic. The questions listed at the top of this page can help.
When you use Google to explore your topic, it can be difficult to determine what type of source you’ve found. You might find articles from news publications or magazines, reports produced by nonprofits or government agencies, scholarly journal articles, videos, and more. The questions listed at the top of this page—especially those about who is responsible for creating the source—can help determine credibility and provide clues about what type of source it is. Keep in mind that your professor might ask you to use specific types of sources.
This video describes the process of peer review for scholarly journal articles.