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Evaluating Information: Vetting Your Sources: Evaluating Academic Sources

This guide equips you with tools to evaluate sources within the, often times overwhelming, information landscape.

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).

Predatory Journals

Professor Jeffrey Beall defines predatory journals:

"Predatory open-access publishers are those that unprofessionally exploit the gold open-access model for their own profit. That is to say, they operate as scholarly vanity presses and publish articles in exchange for the author fee. They are characterized by various levels of deception and lack of transparency in their operations." (Chronicle of Higher Education)

It is important to understand that some of these are included in databases, so vetting your sources and staying vigilant even in academic databases is important. You can look at a journal's information page to gather more information on their mission and background.

For more information on predatory journals see:

Icon: Money by Delwar Hossain from the Noun Project

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.

Evaluating Databases

Interested in learning more about this issue?

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?