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ENGL 150 Poetry and Drama

Evaluating Information

Many research papers require scholarly journal articles as sources. Do you know what they are and how to differentiate them from popular and trade magazine articles? Check out the comparison table below to learn more about the differences between scholarly, popular and trade publications.

Source: NSCU LibrariesSt. Cloud State University 

Most sources can be classified as either primary or secondary. 

Primary sources provide first-hand observations or direct evidence concerning a topic under investigation. They are created by witnesses or recorders at or near the time of the event. They have not been filtered through further interpretation or evaluation. 

The definition of a primary source may vary by discipline, and may depend on the source is being used.

Primary sources may include

  • Original Documents: diaries, speeches, letters, interview transcripts, news footage, autobiographies, reports, census records, data from an experiment
  • Creative Works: poetry, plays, novels, music scores, films, paintings
  • Objects: clothing, buildings, tools, furniture

Secondary sources are works that analyze, assess or interpret a historical event, era or phenomenon.  They may use primary sources to to write a review, critique or interpretation often well after the event.

Secondary sources may include

  • journal articles, editorial articles, literacy criticism, book reviews, biographies, textbooks





 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.

  • 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."
Stephen Colbert 

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

Examples of Peer-Reviewed Journal Article, Magazine Article, Book Review

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