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How to Evaluate Sources with Linked Examples

How to...

Evaluate Sources

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This table below lists some of the distinguishing characteristics among different types of periodicals

PURPOSE

ARTICLE CHARACTERISTICS

PHYSICAL APPEARANCE

STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES

Scholarly Journals

Inform and report original research

Provide in-depth analysis of issues related to a specific discipline

Lengthy articles written by scholars, professors or researchers within the specific discipline

Specific terminology pertaining to the subject matter

Inclusion of bibliographies, and/or charts, graphs or tables

Usually plain black print on white paper

Rarely photographs or advertising

Strength: The in-depth nature of the article is helpful with obtaining information. Inclusion of bibliographies is useful if looking for additional sources.

Weakness: Terminology and depth of articles may be difficult to understand if reader is not familiar with the subject matter.

Professional & Trade Periodicals

Current trends, news and research in a specific field

Articles vary in length and are often written by staff writers or freelance journalists

Language specific to those within the given profession

Inclusion of statistics and forecasts, and sources cited

Some photographs and graphics

Advertising specific to the discipline

Strength: Provides up-to-date information on the profession, including trends and issues

Weakness: The characteristics of professional /trade periodicals and scholarly sources can be at times very similar making it difficult to distinguish the sources.

Popular & Special Interest 
Magazines

Entertain, inform and persuade without providing in-depth analysis

Articles are usually fairly short, written by freelance journalists, editorial staff, or the author(s) may not be identified

Articles provide general information, with little detail and no jargon

Slick and glossy pages

Many photographs

Extensive advertising

Authors are typically not experts
on the given subject matter and may
present a bias or personal opinion.

Weakness: There is often a lack of depth to articles; this can be difficult when trying to obtain information.

For more information visit the Communications Library or go to: http://www.library.uiuc.edu/cmx/