To judge the quality or appropriateness of an article that you find online it is a good idea to examine the source. Do this by
Some databases allow you to limit your results to peer-reviewed journals. In the EBSCO databases (Greenfile, Academic Search Complete, etc.) the limiting option can be applied after you get your results list -- it appears on the right and looks like this:
A scholarly, peer-reviewed article is one that is published only after undergoing scrutiny by several scholars, called reviewers, in the author's discipline, e.g., chemistry, history, etc. The reviewers do not know the identity of the submitting author and the author, likewise, does not know the identity of the reviewers. This method insures that the results of the peer-review process are fair and impartial. The reviewers may choose to reject the article for publication or recommend that the article be published either with or without suggested changes.
Popular--non-peer-reviewed--articles are ones that do not undergo academic scrutiny; these kinds of articles are generally found in news magazines like Time and The Nation.
Here are some ways you can figure out if an article is peer-reviewed:
A. Google the journal and click on "submission guidelines" or the "about" section of the journal's page and look for words such as "peer-reviewed," "refereed," and "double-blind review."
B. The author is a scholar. Look for a byline or a blurb that identifies the college or university where the author teaches. If no information is given, Google the author to find out.
C. There are extensive footnotes, showing the author's familiarity with and reliance on scholarship in the field.
D. The article is addressed to a knowledgeable audience, rather than to the general public.
E. The journal is one that "sounds scholarly" (although this can be tricky). For instance, the title begins with Journal of ...Find the journal's home page and figure out what society or institution publishes it and what submission guidelines are. See who is on the editorial board of the journal—are they scholars in the field/people with academic positions?
You can think of the variety of sources available for your research as being on a continuum that looks like this:
Aim to collect sources that fall on the right-hand side of the continuum. There are criteria you can use to judge where a source would fit on this continuum.The criteria below fit the diagram above from left to right.
|Absolutely no bibliography; fictitious sources||No bibliography or reference list; some journalistic standards present||Bibliography or reference list is present|
|Authors are usually unknown||Authors are known||Authors are known and credentials are given|
|Purpose is …?||Purpose is to inform||Purpose is to disseminate research or new ideas|
|Audience???||Has the widest audience||Audience is other scholars or students in the field or discipline|