Evaluating Information

How to evaluate information, from social media to scholarly articles.

Always Evaluate the Site

These guides from the libraries at the University of Washington and UC Berkeley point out important clues for deciding whether or not to depend on a web page for information.

Peer Review

What does "peer-reviewed" mean?

  • If an article has been peer-reviewed before being published, it means that the article has been read by other people in the same field of study ("peers").
  • The author's reviewers have commented on the article, not only noting typos and possible errors, but also giving a judgment about whether or not the article should be published by the journal to which it was submitted.

How do I find "peer-reviewed" materials?

  • Most of the the research articles in scholarly journals are peer-reviewed.
  • Some databases will note whether an item is peer-reviewed. For example, many databases allow you to check a box that says "peer-reviewed," or to see which results in your list of results are from peer-reviewed sources. Some of the databases that provide this are Academic Search Premiere, Applied Science and Technology Abstracts, CINAHL, General Science Full Text, PsycINFO, and Sociological Abstracts.

What kinds of materials are *not* peer-reviewed?

  • open web pages
  • most newspapers, newsletters, and news items in journals
  • letters to the editor
  • editorials
  • press releases
  • columns and blogs
  • book reviews
  • preprints and e-prints
  • anything in a popular magazine (e.g., Time, Newsweek, Glamour, Men's Health)

If a piece of information wasn't peer-reviewed, does that mean that I can't trust it at all?

No -- some non-peer-reviewed information *is* trustworthy. For example, the databases and web pages produced by the U.S. government (e.g., the National Library of Medicine and the CDC); entities such as the Smithsonian Institution and the American Cancer Society; and technical reports such as those found at the National Technical Information Service and in TRAIL.

Also, the preprints and e-prints submitted to well-known sites such as arXiv (covering physics, math, and some other STEM fields) and CiteSeer (mainly covering computer science) are trustworthy, in that they are sincere reports about ongoing research that are not intended to do anything but inform their communities and get feedback, even though they may not be accurate.

Look it up

Go to our database, Ulrich's

  • Type the journal TITLE in as a phrase; that is, surrounded by quotation marks
  • In the list, click on the journal title.
    • If the journal is peer-reviewed (they called it “refereed,” like in sports), you will see a little black icon (mouse over it and it will say "Refereed")


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