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GPHY 227: Cities

A course guide for Geography 227

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating your sources is a crucial step of the research process. You need to evaluate carefully each source to determine its appropriateness and quality.

Check our Evaluating Sources Checklist for criteria used to judge information sources and our Scholarly and Popular Resources list to distinguish between scholarly and popular publications.

It is particularly important to evaluation information that you find on the Web. Because there are no rules and anyone can post a page on the Web, you will have to determine whether the web site is of value.

Go to Evaluating Web Sources for specific criteria used to analyze websites.

Check our Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals information in order to evaluate periodicals by looking at their content, purpose, and intended audience.

Evaluating Sources Checklist

Carefully evaluate each source you find to determine if it is appropriate for your research. Previously, we discussed how academic journal articles can be distinguished from other types of periodicals. Here is a checklist for criteria used to judge information sources, particularly books.

Evaluating Sources Checklist

Purpose Why was the resource written? Was the author's purpose to inform, persuade, or to refute a particular idea or point of view?
Audience Is the resource intended for the general public, scholars, professionals,etc.
Authority What are the author's qualifications? Consider author's educational background, past writings and experience. Is the author associated with an organization or institution? Who is the publisher? Are they well known? Does any group control the publishing company?
Accuracy Is the information covered fact, opinion, or propaganda? Facts can be usually verified. Opinions evolve from the interpretation of facts. Are the author's conclusions or facts supported with references?
Timeliness When was the information published? Is the date of publication appropriate for your topic?
Coverage Is it relevant to your topic? Is the topic covered in depth, partially or is it an broad overview? Does the resource add new information, update other sources or substantiate other resources that you have consulted?
Objectivity Does the author present multiple viewpoints or is it biased? How do critical reviews rate the work?


Distinguising Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals

Scholarly Journals

 Examples: Urban Studies, International Journal of Urban Studies, Urban Geographer, Cities

  • 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 Evaluating Sources 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: The New Yorker, Maclean's, National Geographic

  • 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

News and Newspaper 

 Examples: BBC World News,

  • Newspapers keep you up to date on current affairs and can also serve as primary sources and put events into historical context. 
  • Often published on a daily basis providing up to date information that may not be reflected in other sources


 Examples: City Lab, Twitter

  • Without a complex publication process blogs often have the most up to date information which can be cited and used for academic work