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Finding Resources: Evaluating Your Resources

Not sure how to search for a particular item? Want to learn how to use a database? Use this Guide to get all the best tips and tricks.

Questions to Consider


Be Aware

Different fields of study might have different criteria for what is acceptable to use as a source. Not sure if your professor thinks a source will be valid? Ask them! Not sure how to evaluate a source? Ask us!

Learn more about evaluating different types of sources (including news).

Evaluating Databases

Interested in learning more about this issue?

Evaluating Websites of Organizations

Use these tips to evaluate the websites of organizations. Keep in mind that these are only a starting point and not guaranteed to be failsafe in every situation. 

Learn About Scholarly Articles

Scholarly articles are usually structured with specific components such as a literature review, methods section, and references. To learn more and see examples of how this looks, click the link below.

Types of Articles

When researching, you will encounter many different types of articles. Here are a few examples to be aware of.

  • Empirical Study: Article that is structured around original research findings. The purpose is to relay what the researcher has found.
  • Literature Review: Article that employs and/or analyzes previously published scholarship. Original concepts should be explored, but authors pull from other's research.
  • Professional Trade Journal: Publication intended for professionals in a specific field, trade, or industry. Not considered scholarly.

Librarian Tip: Peer Review is a process by which articles are reviewed by other scholars or experts in the field before being accepted for publication. Look out for "Peer Reviewed" filters in databases and the catalog to narrow your results to these types of articles.

What is Peer Review?

Primary and Secondary Sources

What is a Primary Source?

  • A direct source from a particular event; a first-hand account from someone who was involved in an event; a work that was created during the time period studied.

  • A diary, newspapers from the time an event took place, a personal letter or correspondence.

CHINESE CRUSH FOE IN CHIHKIANG ZONE. (1945, May 11). New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from

What is a Secondary Source?

  • Uses primary sources to make an argument or provide an analysis; not from the direct time of the event that it is describing.

  • Criticisms, commentaries, a document that reviews or interprets a previous event or findings.

Can a Source be Primary and  Secondary?

Simply put, yes. For example a documentary about World War II could be used as both a primary or secondary source. It could be used as a primary source if it has first-hand accounts or if you are studying the art of documentary. It could also be used as a secondary source because it uses primary source material to analyze an event. 


Not sure if what you are looking at is primary or secondary?