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GPHY 101: Library Research Guide

Evaluating Sources

Who is the author? Are they an expert? What are their credentials?
What gives the author the expertise and authority to write on a topic?

What kind of information is being presented: fact or opinion?
Does your assignment require you to summarize different points of view, reference facts, or both?

Where did you find this information: scholarly journal? newspaper? website?
What you need will influence where you find it. For example, following real time updates using Twitter.

When was the information published? Is it relevant, accurate, up to date?
An article titled "New Computing Trends" written in the 1980's may be an acceptable historical perspective, but doesn't represent current trends.

Why is this information being reported: to inform, to persuade, to advance understanding of a problem?
Research funded by the oil the industry is more likely to support all things oil.

Distinguising Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals

Scholarly Journals

 Examples: Cartographica, Canadian geographer, Journal of cultural geography, Geographic Review

  • Have a serious look with charts and graphs but few glossy pictures
  • Have articles that are written by a scholar in the field, discipline or specialty
  • Often subjected to peer review process. Is it peer reviewed? Check out Queen’s Library Journal evaluation page to see:
  • Report on original research or experimentation
  • Have articles that use the terminology and language of the covered subject
  • Have articles that are footnoted and/or have a bibliography
  • Generally published by a professional organization or a scholarly press
  • Contain selective advertising

General Interest & Popular Magazines

 Examples: Newsweek, Maclean's, National Geographic, Popular Science, Vogue, Sports Illustrated, People

  • Attractive in appearance and heavily illustrated with photographs
  • Provides information in a general manner to a broad audience
  • Articles generally written by a member of the editorial staff or free-lance
  • Language of articles geared to an educated audience, no subject expertise assumed
  • Sources are sometimes cited but more often there are no footnotes or bibliography
  • Contains advertising and published by commercial enterprises for profit
  • Have short articles, written in simple language, with little depth
  • The purpose is to entertain and inform the general public

Trade Publications

 Examples: Oil and Gas Investor, World Oil, MacWorld, Industry World, Byte

  • Articles written by experts in the field for other experts in the field
  • Provide news, product information, advertising and trade articles to people in a particular industry or profession
  • Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline
  • Similar in nature to popular magazines in the use of graphics and photographs
  • Published through a professional association

Advocacy Groups

Green Peace, Mining Watch Canada

  • Organizations that try to influence public policy and/or change the public's opinion  on a particular issue or more generally promoting an ideology
  • Often referred to as lobby and public/special interest groups
  • Can include non-profit organizations

Sensational Periodicals

 Examples: National Enquirer, The Onion

  • Come in variety of styles but often use a newspaper format
  • Contain melodramatic photographs
  • Rarely cite sources of information
  • Articles written by free-lance writers for an impressionable audience
  • Purpose is to arouse curiosity and interest of the general public
  • Language is elementary and occasionally inflammatory or sensational
  • Contains advertising as startling and melodramatic as the stories