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English 102: College Writing (Prof. Moran): Evaluating

Scholarly, Trade, & Popular Articles

Identifying scholarly articles involves analysis of the article's content. The chart below is meant to help you in this process; however, any one criteria by itself may not indicate that an article is scholarly. For example, a 30 page photo spread in People about stars at the Academy Awards is not scholarly, even though it is long.


Journal Cover  Image result for scholarly journal cover  

Scholarly Journals

Image result for trade magazine cover    

Trade or Professional Magazines

Magazine Cover  Image result for trade magazine cover  Popular Magazines

Length Longer articles (often 10+ pages), providing in-depth analysis  Mid-length articles (often 2-8 pages), providing practical guidance Shorter articles (often <1-5 pages), providing broader overviews
Author An expert or specialist in the field (often a professor), name and credentials always provided Usually someone working in the field, with hands-on experience; some staff writers Usually a staff writer or a journalist, name and credentials often not provided
Language Professional language, jargon, theoretical terms Some jargon and technical terms Non-technical language 
Likely Audience  Scholarly readers (professors, researchers or students) Other people working in the industry  Anyone
Advertisements Few or none Some -- products to sell to practitioners in that industry Many -- products for the general public
Format/Structure Usually structured, with likely sections: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography Sometimes has sub-sections for organization No specific format or structure
Special Features Illustrations that support the text, such as tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs Some illustrations; practical guidelines, best practices, lesson plans, how-to, or other hands-on direction Glossy/color illustrations or graphics, usually for advertising purposes
Editors Reviewed and critically evaluated by several editors. Often refereed or peer-reviewed by experts in the field. Editorial board of other practitioners or professionals in the field, but no external peer review Not evaluated by experts in the field, but by editors or other journalists on staff
Credits Bibliography (works cited) and/or footnotes are always present to document research Usually no formal bibliography, although references to other research are often mentioned in-text No bibliography, although references to other research are sometimes mentioned in-text

Still can't tell the difference? These resources can help:
Ulrichsweb  (periodicals directory) -- look up a journal's name, and look for the row called "Content type" -- it should say Academic/Scholarly, Trade, or Consumer (popular).

Magazines for Libraries / Reference Collection Z6941 .K2

Evaluate a Website


It is important to do some critical evaluation to decide whether what you find, particularly online sources of information, is appropriate and usable for your University research assignment. When you are evaluating a website, the methods linked from Evaluating Internet Resources provide useful guidance in determining the source, scope, currency, accuracy and bias of a site. Below is one outline for helping determine whether a website would be a credible source of information.

How to Recognize an Informational Web Page

An Informational Web Page is one whose purpose is to present factual information. The URL Address frequently ends in .edu or .gov, as many of these pages are sponsored by educational institutions or government agencies.

Questions to Ask About the Web Page

Note: The greater number of questions listed below answered "yes", the more likely it is you can determine whether the source is of high information quality.

Criterion #1: AUTHORITY

  1. Is it clear who is responsible for the contents of the page?
  2. Is there a link to a page describing the purpose of the sponsoring organization?
  3. Is there a way of verifying the legitimacy of the page's sponsor? That is, is there a phone number or postal address to contact for more information? (Simply an email address is not enough.)
  4. Is it clear who wrote the material and are the author's qualifications for writing on this topic clearly stated?
  5. If the material is protected by copyright, is the name of the copyright holder given?

Criterion #2: ACCURACY

  1. Are the sources for any factual information clearly listed so they can be verified in another source?
  2. Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? (These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but can actually produce inaccuracies in information.)
  3. Is it clear who has the ultimate responsibility for the accuracy of the content of the material?
  4. If there are charts and/or graphs containing statistical data, are the charts and/or graphs clearly labeled and easy to read?

Criterion #3: OBJECTIVITY

  1. Is the information provided as a public service?
  2. Is the information free of advertising?
  3. If there is any advertising on the page, is it clearly differentiated from the informational content?

Criterion #4: CURRENCY

  1. Are there dates on the page to indicate:
    1. When the page was written?
    2. When the page was first placed on the Web?
    3. When the page was last revised?
  2. Are there any other indications that the material is kept current?
  3. If material is presented in graphs and/or charts, is it clearly stated when the data was gathered?
  4. If the information is published in different editions, is it clearly labeled what edition the page is from?

Criterion #5: COVERAGE

  1. Is there an indication that the page has been completed, and is not still under construction?
  2. If there is a print equivalent to the Web page, is there a clear indication of whether the entire work is available on the Web or only parts of it?
  3. If the material is from a work which is out of copyright (as is often the case with a dictionary or thesaurus) has there been an effort to update the material to make it more current?

Copyright Jan Alexander & Marsha Ann Tate 1996-2005
Print copies of this checklist may be made and distributed provided that 1) They are used for educational purposes only and 2) The page is reproduced in its entirety. For any other use or for permission to make electronic copies, please contact the authors at Wolfgram Memorial Library, Widener University, One University Place, Chester, PA. 19013.

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