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Research Process: Evaluating Sources

This tutorial aims to help develop effective library research skills and critical thinking skills in all courses at Prince George's Community College.

Evaluating Sources

In today's information driven society, a vast amount of resources are available in print and non-print from the Web. Using information that provides facts and opinions from credible sources is one key for developing and writing a scholarly paper.

Since the development of the Internet there has been an infinite amount of information made available from purchasing merchandise online to getting medical information. Unlike books, journals, magazines, and newspapers, most information on the Web is not checked and evaluated by publishers and editors.

Critically evaluating information sources is essential as you gather information from books, magazines, journals, newspapers, and from the World Wide Web. It is important that you can document and support your findings accurately.


A Hierarchy of Credibility of Sources
(Some scholarly databases and encyclopedias are subject to multiple peer reviews)

High - Peer-reviewed (vetted or refereed)

Encyclopedias: established, "safe" scholarly knowledge

  • General encyclopedias: New Encyclopedia Britannica, World Book Encyclopedia
  • Specialized encyclopedias: Anchor Bible Dictionary, Encyclopedia of E-Collabortation

Scholarly journals, books, and .edu or .gov websites

  • Journals: American Ethnologist, Journal of Communication, Science Magazine, College and Research Libraries
  • .Edu or .gov websites:,, 
  • Popularizing magazines: Scientific America, Psychology Today

Mid - Editorially Reviewed

Trade and professional publications

  • Nation's Restaurant News, Publisher's Weekly, Advertising Age, Aviation Week and Space Technology, American Libraries

General Interest

  • Forbes, Time, Glamour, People Weekly, Reader's Digest

Sensational news

  • National Enquirer, Star, Sun, Globe

Low - Unreviewed

Governed wikis, including Wikipedia and some websites: good for topics in popular culture

  • Good: links to usually reliable sites: .gov, .edu, and some .org
  • Not Good: Billy-Bob, who has never studied much but thinks he knows a lot, can write and change Wikipedia articles

Many or most websites, blogs, and ungoverned wikis

Hierarchy of Credibility of Sources