Identify & evaluate resources

Identify & evaluate resources

Being able to identify resources is an important part of the research process. When you locate an article or a webpage that you would like to use in your research how do you know if it is peer reviewed? How do you know that it is trustworthy and accurate?

The information on this page will help you recognize parts of an article, learn to verify if an article is peer reviewed, and provide you strategies for evaluating resources.


A citation is similar to an address in that it provides all of the information a person would need to locate the document. Searching in the databases will provide you a list of results. Each result will contain all of the information that you need to create an APA formatted citation. Results may appear different in different databases, but they will always have all of the information you need to create your APA formatted citations.

When you select an article to view in the databases you will often see a link labeled Cite. When available, this link will provide you with a completed APA citation of the article you are viewing.

Even though this is a handy feature, be sure to double-check all of the citations for accuracy.  Sometimes the citations are not correct APA style as in the following example.

Note: For more information on retrieving full text visit the Searching & Retrieving section of this guide.


An abstract is a detailed summary of the item you are viewing. Abstracts for research articles will include information about the study, and may mention the methodology used, the population studied, or the most important results of the study. Often, abstracts are included with search results to help researchers identify relevant articles without having to read the full text.

Note: Nearly all articles in the databases will contain abstracts. Within the databases the presence of an abstract does not necessarily indicate peer-reviewed status.

The following is an example of an abstract in one of the Walden Library databases.

The way that you access an abstract may be slightly different depending on the database. 

In some databases you can click the article title or hover your mouse over the image of a paper and magnifying glass.

In other databases you may see a link that says Abstract.

Peer-reviewed articles will contain an abstract within the article itself. When you view the PDF of the article you will often see a description of the article before the article introduction. It will often be labeled with Abstract but not always. In the articles below you can see an example of each.

· Wright, C., Madrid, G. (2007). Contesting Ethical Trade in Colombia’s Cut-Flower Industry: A Case of Cultural and Economic Injustice. Cultural Sociology, 1. 255-275, doi:10.1177/1749975507078190

· Gould, D., Gammon, J., Ben Salem, R., Chudleigh, J., and Fontenla, M. (2004). Flowers in the clinical setting: Infection risk or workload issue? Nursing Times Research, 9 366-377. doi:10.1177/136140960400900507

Peer review

Peer review refers to the process of peers reviewing content. In the case of peer-reviewed journals, this means that when articles are submitted they are sent to professionals in the field (peers of the author) to review the article for things such as validity, significant contributions to the field, and originality. The peer review process can be very time consuming, sometimes taking a year from the time an article is submitted to when it is published.

While each article in a journal will be peer reviewed, it is the journal that is considered peer reviewed as it is the journal that makes the choice to use the peer review process or not. When you need to verify whether an article is peer reviewed, you will actually need to look for information that will tell you if the journal is peer reviewed. 

Types of periodical publications

Periodicals are published at certain intervals. They may be published weekly, monthly, annually or quarterly. Periodicals can fall into three categories, Scholarly (peer reviewed)Trade, and Popular. Each type of periodical will serve certain functions and will be aimed at certain populations. The following information shows some of the main features and differences between these types of periodicals.

Authors Purpose
Scholarly – Experts, scholars, specialists           Scholarly – Report on research studies, advance knowledge
Trade – Professionals, staff writers Trade – Provide news and industry related information
Popular – Journalists Popular – Inform, entertain, current events 
Content Writing Style/Language
Scholarly – Research reports, methodology, theory Scholarly – Scholarly, technical, assumes a scholarly background 
Trade – Industry trends, products, association news  Trade – Industry jargon
Popular – News, opinions, general interest Popular – Informal, journalistic, conversational

See the Publication Comparison Chart for more information.

· Publication Comparison Chart

Test your periodical publication knowledge

View the PDFs of the following three articles. Can you identify which is peer reviewed, which is popular, and which is from a trade publication? (You may need to log in with your Walden username and password.)

Roberson, R. (2006). Cotton defoliation tied to fruiting characteristics. Southeast Farm Press, 33(23), 12-13.

Yang, T., Stoopen, G., Thoen, M., Wiegers, G., & Jongsma, M. A. (2013). Chrysanthemum expressing a linalool synthase gene ‘smells good’, but ‘tastes bad’ to western flower thrips. Plant Biotechnology Journal, 11(7), 875-882.

Doiron, R. (2008). Wild About dandelions. Mother Earth News, (227), 34-36.

· Check your answers

Evaluating Resources

Evaluating resources is an important part of the research process. Using unreliable or incorrect information will weaken your research. How do you know that the resource you are looking at is credible? There are several methods you can employ to evaluate a source. The evaluative process requires critical thinking and considering multiple viewpoints.

Regardless of the method you choose it is imperative that you read and think critically. 

Think CARP when evaluating: Credentials, Accuracy, Relevance, Purpose.

As you review the resources that you have found, you can ask yourself the following questions to help determine the credibility.

Credentials Accuracy
· What information can you find about the author?· Is the author’s educational institution or organization listed?· Is an email or physical address listed? · Do you notice any spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors?
· Has the author written anything else? Are other authors citing their work?· Does the information in the article seem to align with other information you know or have read about the topic? · Can you find information about the publisher or organization making the resource available?
· Are there any statements made in the resource that you know are false? · Is the author citing other resources to support their statements?
Relevance Purpose
· Does the information in the resource seem to meet the level you would expect for your degree level? Is it overly simplified or far too technical? · Can you tell what the purpose of the resource is?· Is it trying to sell something?· Is it trying to persuade you?· Is it trying to educate?
· Does the resource help to add to your knowledge on the topic and contribute to answering your research question(s)?· Is the information current? What is the date of publication? If the information is older would it be considered foundational? · Does the resource seem to be primarily facts or primarily opinions?
· If the resource is a website does it have a recent copyright or publication date? If there are links within the website are they all working? · Who is the intended audience? The general public? Other scholars?

Two other methods for evaluating resources are the CARS Checklist and the Three C’s. You can view more information about each of these methods using the links below. The Academic Skills Center also provides guides that will prepare you with the knowledge and frame of mind to effectively evaluate resources.

· Meola, M. (2004). Chucking the Checklist: a contextual approach to teaching undergraduates web-site evaluation. Portal 4(3). 331-341.

· Evaluating Internet Research Sources

· Strategies for Thinking Critically

· Critical Reading

Practice evaluating resources

Practice evaluating the following resources using the information that you just learned.

· The Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

· Save the Monarch Butterfly

· Bee Deaths Reversal: As Evidence Points Away From Neonics As Driver, Pressure Builds To Rethink Ban

Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory

Search Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory to verify peer review.

· Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory

The database has publisher and publication information for more than 300,000 journals of all types from around the world. Use the database to find out if a journal is peer reviewed by searching for the journal title.

What is peer review?

Peer review is a scholarly form of review used by journals only for journal articles. After an article is sent to an academic journal, the editor sends it to several  peer reviewers typically scholars in the fieldfor evaluation.

These peer reviewers examine the paper’s methodology, literature review, and conclusions. They note the existence of bias or other flaws. The peer reviewers may accept the article, require rewrites from the authors, or reject the article.

If you are asked to find articles that are peer-reviewed, what you are really looking for are articles from a peer-reviewed journal.

Peer review can also be called: 

· blind peer review

· scholarly peer review

· refereeing or refereed

Search Tip:  Peer-reviewed journals may also contain items that are not peer reviewed, such as letters to the editor, opinion pieces, and book reviews. Even if you check the peer-review limiter box, you still need to examine the items carefully to be sure they are articles.

Check the journal’s website

Journal websites will typically discuss editorial processes, including peer review.

This information is often listed in the following areas:

· about us

· editorial policies

· instructions for authors

· submission guidelines

A simple Google search for the journal will usually locate the journal’s website.

Examples of Editorial Policies:

· APA’s review policy for authors

· Management Science Journal’s Submission Guidelines

· Journal of the American Medical Association Instruction for Authors

Are dissertations peer reviewed?

No. While dissertations are closely supervised by a dissertation committee made up of scholars, they are still considered student work.

Dissertations are often included in scholarly writing, although they are used sparingly. If you are unsure if you can use a dissertation in your assignment or literature review, talk with your instructor or ch


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