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Library Research Methods: How to Evaluate a Scholarly Article

Guidelines for Evaluating a Scholarly Article

 

 

Purpose of Article Type of Journal Organization and Content Bias Date of Article

Bibliography

Usefulness And Relevance

Authority/Author

Coverage

Audience

 

  • Purpose of Article: Why was the article written? To:
    • persuade the reader to do something? For example: vote a certain way, purchase an item, attend an event
    • inform the reader? For example: results of a study/experiment, what happened at an event
    • prove something? For example: that a behavior is bad/good, a method works/doesn't work

 

  • Type of Journal: For college papers, information should be obtained mainly from scholarly journals.
    • Scholarly Journals contain articles describing high quality research that has been reviewed by experts in the field prior to publication.
    • Trade magazines are important for professionals and students preparing to enter an industry. For academic projects, they can be useful for industry information or economic data.
    • Popular magazines, such as TimePeople, Bon Appetit, should be used sparingly, or not at all.

 

  • Organization and Content: Is the material organized and focused? Is the argument or presentation understandable? Is this original research, a review of previous research, or an informative piece?

 

  • Bias: Some publications have an inherent bias that will impact articles printed in them. Is the journal:
    • political?
    • an alternative press?
    • sponsored by a company or an industry lobby, such as a pharmaceutical company or a marketing board?
       
  • Date of Article: Some topics, such as those in the sciences, require current information. Other subjects, such as history, value older material as well as current. Know the time needs of your topic and examine the timeliness of the article; is it:
    • up-to-date,
    • out-of-date, or
    • timeless?

 

  • Bibliography: Scholarly works always contain a bibliography of the resources that were consulted. The references in this list should be in sufficient quantity and be appropriate for the content. Look for:
    • if a bibliography exists
    • if the bibliography is short or long
    • if the references are original journal articles or only summaries from encyclopedias, etc.
    • if the references are contemporary to the article or much older
    • if the citation style is clear and consistent

 

  • Usefulness: Is the article relevant to the current research project? A well-researched, well-written article is not going to be helpful if it does not address the topic at hand. Ask, "is this article useful to me?" If it is a useful article, does it:
    • support an argument?
    • refute an argument?
    • give examples (survey results, primary research findings, case studies, incidents)?
    • provide "wrong" information that can be challenged or disagreed with productively?

 

  • Authority: Is the author an expert in this field? Where is s/he employed? What else has s/he written?
     
  • Coverage: Does the article cover the topic comprehensively, partially, or is it an overview?

 

  • Audience: For what type of reader is the author writing? This ties in with the type of journal, as popular magazine are geared to the general reader, while trade magazines are for the specialist and scholarly journals are directed at researchers, scholars or experts in the field. Is the article for:
    • general readers?
    • students (high school, college, graduate)?
    • specialists or professional?
    • researchers or scholars?

 

  • Illustrations: Are charts, graphs, maps, photographs, etc. used to illustrate concepts? Are the illustrations relevant? Are they clear and professional-looking?

 

Guide adapted from: Colorado State University Libraries How To Do Library Research / How to Evaluate Journal Articles
 

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