Identifying Peer Reviewed Sources
Using research that has been evaluated by other experts in the field (peer reviewed or refereed) is an efficient way of finding research of value. Some ways to identify if the research is peer-reviewed:
- Use the database: some databases consist entirely (or almost entirely) of peer-reviewed literature (for example: Sociological Abstracts, Abstracts in Anthropology, ERIC, PsycInfo)
- Many databases allow you to LIMIT your search to peer-reviewed or scholarly literature (the EBSCOhost databases like Academic Search Premier for example)
- Check the journal's editorial policy statement for an explicit statement (generally small print at the front of the issue, or visit the journal's web page). Look for a list of editors, which can be an implicit indication of peer review.
- Ask a librarian for assistance
In the past many professers told students not to use material found on the internet in their research. This is becoming more difficult as the web is increasingly used to disseminate scholarly research. So, as with books and journal articles it is vitally important to evaluate web sites.
Most of the evaluation tools for other resources apply to web resources as well. But there are more things you should pay attention to and techniques you can use.
First principle is: ANYONE can put ANYTHING online and make it look good! Therefore checking the Authority of the author/ sponsor is key. Accuracy, Objectivity, Currency and Coverage complete the criteria.
Help from websites: An excellent Evaluation Criteria checklist can be found at the New Mexico State University Library website, http://lib.nmsu.edu/instruction/evalcrit.html created by librarian Susan Beck. This is part of her tutorial The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: or, Why It's a Good Idea to Evaluate Web Sources (1997) http://lib.nmsu.edu/instruction/eval.html
Multimedia help: If you prefer something more active, the following may be to your liking! The first is a video; the second, an interactive tutorial. They cover much of the same material but in slightly different ways.
- From Colorado State University Libraries: http://lib.colostate.edu/tutorials/webeval.html
- From Vaughan Memorial Library, Acadia University (Nova Scotia): http://library.acadiau.ca/tutorials/webevaluation/
Evaluating Your Sources
Not everything you find will be of high quality or appropriate to your topic. You need to carefully evaluate your sources before incorporating them into your research. Ask yourself some questions:
- Is the article peer reviewed? (see section on Peer Review for help to determine this)
- What is the authority of the author and source? Is the author an expert? Does s/he work for a reputable university or organization? Do the statistics come from a government source (generally high reliability) or somewhere else (evaluate these carefully).
- Are there biases in the publication?
- Judge the relevance to your subject and the discipline. When using and comparing statistics, do they cover the same time period?
- Is the information current? Does your subject require it to be?
Other things that may be important:
- Does the source have a bibliography? This can lead you to other sources.
- What other terminology is being used either by the author or by the database? Keep an eye out for other words you can use in your search statements.