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ENGL 153 Studies in Narrative

Evaluating Information - Literary Research

The Internet and the Library make it is easy to find information, but it is more difficult to identify sources you can rely on. Evaluate your sources carefully to ensure you've selected material that is trustworthy and appropriate for your assignment. Keep in mind that searches for literary research will often result in short book reviews being returned. Strictly speaking, these do NOT count as an academic source!

Use this checklist to help you evaluate your sources:


Scholarly Academic Publication

Popular Publications

Written by an expert in the field of study (an academic or trained specialist) Written by those without expertise in the field (a member of the public or journalist) or no author is stated 
Date of publication is provided Popular publications, especially WWW publications, often do not give a date of publication
Colleges/Universities, professional associations, scholarly publishers + research institutes    Commercial for-profit publishers or members of the public
To report on experiments, theories, case studies + other research    To sell advertised products, inform, promote a point of view or entertain
Peer review by experts in the field Review by a generalist (a magazine editor) or no review
Sources used in the author's research are cited in a reference list or footnotes    Sources are rarely cited or are inaccurate
Accurate spelling + grammar, few advertisements, logical + well written

Spelling + grammar errors may occur, many advertisements, poor or variable writing quality

(Modified, original source UBC Library)

For more information:


  • Who is the author and/or owner of the site?
  • Does the author have authority and expertise in the area?
  • What is the link's domain, .edu, .gov, or .com?
  • Are references or related links available?


  • Can you verify the information on the site elsewhere?
  • Is there a list of sources or references?
  • Has accuracy been proven through a review process?


  • What is the purpose of the information? Is it fact, opinion, selling something?
  • Is there advertising on the site, or is something being sold?


  • When was the site last updated? Is a copyright date available? 
  • Do the links work?
  • Is the information up to date for your research?


  • Is there enough coverage of the topic?  
  • Does the information support the research you have already found?
  • Are links provided to find more information?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources?

Wikipedia etc.

Wikipedia can be great to find background information! 
 Wikipedia has an absence of accountability, people do not need to verify the truthfulness of the information 

"You see, any user can change any entry, and if enough other users agree with them, it becomes true."
Comedian Stephen Colbert 





 Search engines, such as Google, websites Academic Search Premier, PsycINFO


 Any computer with Internet connection On-campus or off-campus with login


 Free Free to students, but Library pays subscription & licensing fees

Content by

 Anyone Scholars, professionals, experts, journalists


 Anything and everything, pictures, personal opinions, blogs, articles, etc. Biased or often misleading to change visitors' opinion of site or organization. Full-text articles from reputable publications, often peer reviewed content. Full-text books and book chapters. References or links for related information. 


 Personal pages, corporate pages, pages that look reliable but have no affiliation with reputable source, visually appealing pages to distract from content.  Little or no advertising, range of limiters available. Affiliated with reputable source, organization, individual or company. Contact information available. Often uses .org or .gov domains.


 Anytime by anyone, irregular schedule.

Typically published daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually. Journal/periodical issues usually identified by volume and/or issue number.

Books and DVDs which are not located at your Okanagan College campus library may be requested in the Library's catalogue

Resource Type



When would I use?

Find & Locate

Reference Sources



Brief factual articles on many subjects, divided into articles or entries, which are usually accessed alphabetically by article name.
Two types: general and subject.
General - overviews on a wide variety of topics.
Subject - entries focusing on one field of study.

Authors: Scholars in the field, academics or researchers.

Sources: always cited with many references and/or footnotes

Length: Long and in-depth 

Find background information or an overview of a topic

Answer quick, factual questions, locate background information, find key ideas, important dates or concepts

Find additional sources within bibliographies or footnotes

Find: Library catalogue

Find: OCtopus

Find: E-Resource Listing

Locate: Reference section

Locate: Online

Reference Sources

  • A collection of words in one or more specific languages, often listed alphabetically, with usage information, definitions, etymologies, phonetics, pronunciations, and other information.
Confirm spelling
Confirm meaning of a word
Find the definition of a word

Books (& E-Books)

Book (fiction & non-fiction)

Authors: Scholarly and experts in the field.subject

Sources: Cited, many footnotes or references

Long, in-depth

Often published by university presses

Need background information or overview of a topic

Need extensive or in-depth information on a topic

Put your topic in context with other important issues

Find historical information

Find summaries of research

Find additional sources within bibliographies or footnotes

Find: Library catalogue

Find: OCtopus

Locate: Library "stacks" (shelves)

Locate: Online

Locate: Reserves (At circulation desk)


Edited Books

Textbook, anthology

All characteristics of a book plus:

May have multiple authors, as well as editor(s)


Time, Newsweek, Chatelaine, Shape, GQ

Articles on topics of popular interest and current events,  written by journalists and are for the general public.

Authors: usually staff writers or journalists, often a generalist.

Sources: rarely cited, original sources may be obscure.

Length: Brief, unless a feature

Appearance: glossy, have graphics and full page advertisements even online.

Looking for up-to-date information on current events

find information or opinions about popular culture

Find up-to-date information about current events

Find general articles written for people who are not necessarily specialists in the topic area

Commentaries, expert or popular opinions

Find: Library databases

Find: Library catalogue

Find: E-journal listing

Find: OCtopus

Locate: Print in library

Locate: Online





Journal of Canadian History


Often peer-reviewed, an editorial board reviews articles to decide whether they should be published.

May cover very specific topics or narrow fields of research.

Authors:  written by scholars in an academic or professional field. 

Sources: always cited with many references and/or footnotes

Length: long with sections such as abstract, literature review, methodology, results and conclusion.

Appearance: similar to books, usually don't have color and never ads, even in online versions.

Need scholarly or peer reviewed information on a topic

find additional sources within bibliographies or footnotes

when doing scholarly research

To find out what has been studied on your topic

 find bibliographies that point to other relevant research

Peer Review

peer reviewed journal is a special type of publication. Before articles are published within these types of journals, they are sent by the editors of the journal to other scholars in the field ("peers"), often anonymously, to get feedback on the quality of the scholarship, review research methods, as well as relevance or importance to the field. The article may be accepted, often with revisions suggested, or rejected for publication.  

Considered the most respected, researchers wish to have their works published in them. Many often have low acceptance rates. 

Web Sites

Okanagan College Website    

Find: Search engine

Find: Links

Find": E-Resources listing

Locate: Online

Media (YouTube video, DVD)

YouTube video, video clip from website, DVD played in class    

Find: Library catalogue

Find: OCtopus

Locate: In library

Locate: Online (Streaming)


New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Capital News

Articles published each day about current events.

Good source for local information.

Authors: Staff writers, guest writers, journalists

Sources: Rarely cited, few references

Articles: Usually brief, longer feature articles

Made of newsprint or online format

Up-to-date information on current events

Find current information about international, national and local events

Find editorials, commentaries, expert or popular opinions

Find: Library catalogue

Find: OCtopus

Find: Databases

Find: E-Journal listing

Locate: Online

Locate: On display

Locate: Microfiche/microfilm

Conference Proceeding

Proceedings of the 28th Annual NASIG Conference

Collection of papers on cutting-edge research presented by researchers in a particular field of study.

Some published as individual book; some may be published as an annual periodical; some may not be published at all but may only be available as an abstract. 

Authors: usually scholars in the field, academics or researchers.

Sources: almost always cited with references and/or footnotes

Length: long and often have sections such as abstract, literature review, methodology, results, and conclusion.

Appearance: no color, no ads even in online versions, and some have graphs and tables.

New research ideas, emerging trends, or to gain an historical perspective on research

identify leading researchers and institutions in various fields of study

historical insight into various scientific and technological approaches to problems back in time


Find: OCtopus

Find: Databases

Locate: Online

Locate: ILL

Technical Report


Scientific and technical information. Most commonly generated by  government agencies,  corporations, and universities.

Authors: Scholars or scientists, engineers, government contractors, or technical personnel.

Sources: always cited with references and/or footnotes

Length: Long and often have sections such as abstract and appendixes. Often includes tables, images and charts.

Appearance: No ads, and only sometimes have color graphics.

New research ideas, emerging trends, or to gain an historical perspective on research

discover new developments or findings from science and technical research before its publication in journals

see how the research in specific topic areas was approached from an historical perspective

Find: OCtopus

Find: Databases

Find: Search engine

Locate: Online

Trade Journals

Advertising Age, Business in Vancouver

Industry-specific news and advertising targeted at those who work in a particular profession or trade

Authors: Staff writers or journalists, often with expertise in subject area.

Sources: Rarely cited.

Length: Brief, unless feature

Appearance: glossy, have graphics and advertisements, many are large format or online

Current news, products, and trends within a specific trade or industry or practical information from practitioners

Find practical information within a field from practitioners in that industry

Find: OCtopus

Find: Databases

Find: E-journal listing

Find: Library catalogue

Locate: Online

Locate: In print

Primary Sources Examples

In the sciences, primary sources, or "primary literature" are sources which report the results of original research.

Generally in research journals; report research done by the authors.

Usually only include references to other primary sources.

Cover very focused and specialized topics.

Primary source journal articles (and sometimes conference papers/proceedings) are usually peer-reviewed or refereed ie. independent experts in the field review, or "referee" the manuscript before publication to check the accuracy and validity of its claims.


In the sciences: typically journal articles or conference papers which describe a new theory or the results of an experiment or study.

Also: Technical reports; dissertations and theses; patents; numerical data & statistics; samples, field notes and specimens; lab notes & journal entries.


Secondary Sources Examples

In the sciences, sources which review the existing literature are "secondary sources."

Generally include a large bibliography; usually the bibliographic references are primary sources.

Topic coverage is more focused than tertiary sources, but less focused than primary.

In the sciences: "review articles" in journals, research or graduate level books, specialised scientific encyclopedia entries, and scientific news reports.

Tertiary Sources Examples

Synthesize and report on secondary sources for general readers.

Sparse references, generally secondary sources.

General and very broad topic coverage

Undergraduate or course textbooks, encyclopedia articles, Wikipedia



Adapted from The CRAAP Test, developed by librarians at California State University, Chico

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