In your courses, you are often asked to use peer reviewed journal articles as references in your assignments and Discussion Questions. Why? Peer reviewed articles are considered the most credible sources available in academia. However, you won’t always be using peer reviewed articles from the library, so this document will help you learn how to assess whether or not a source is credible.
If you are looking for peer reviewed articles, Yorkville University’s library is your go-to resource! We subscribe to scholarly journals with peer review processes to make sure that you have a wealth of credible sources at your fingertips!
But what if you aren’t sure? Or what if you have found a source elsewhere? No matter what source you’re considering—journal article, book, newspaper, statistical report—there are certain standard approaches that you can take to assess them!
When time is precious, assessing each source’s credibility can seem daunting. This is why academia uses the peer review process, ensuring that rigorous standards are met and saving you time in vetting the content of academic journals.
But what is peer review and how can you recognize if an article is peer reviewed?
Peer reviewed articles are articles published in journals that require experts in the field to review articles written by other authors, usually in a blind process, to ensure that the information presented is accurate, unbiased, and representative of the current state of the field.
This is why we encourage you to search the library first. You can limit your search to peer reviewed articles by searching through Yorkville’s Discovery service, using the “Peer Review” limitation directly beneath the search bar on our main page.
However, if you have found an article elsewhere, you can check in Ulrichsweb.com and search for the journal the article was published in. Make sure to use the exact title of the journal! You can also check the journal’s official website (usually in the masthead!) to see if they indicate that peer review is part of their process.
If you still are not sure, contact the librarians! We are here to help.
You might be thinking, but what if I need to use sources that are not scholarly for an assignment? First, ensure that the scope of the assignment allows you to use non-academic sources. If that is the case, you have a few things to consider.
Some sources that may be relevant for your field are professional literature, like trade journals, where people working in the field share articles, or federal statistics. While these are not peer reviewed, they still have value. But how can you determine if they are credible?
First, who is the author? If you want to make sure your source is credible, make sure that the author is somebody who is respected in the field. Are they somebody who has worked in the field for a long time? Are there controversies surrounding their work? Or do they appear generally well-respected by those in their industry?
Do they share their references? Just like you are looking for credible sources to build your research on, they should be too! The author, no matter how respected, should always include their sources, even if it is not a peer reviewed journal article. Which research are they citing to support their claims? Is that research sound?
Is it balanced and in-depth? If the author is not presenting a balanced, objective point of view, you might want to consider why the author is writing this. You can consider who has paid for the research, or if it is associated with an organization with a specific agenda.
Is the logic sound? Does the data presented actually support the case being made? Is the author making any logical “leaps” or engaging in any logical fallacies?
Is it current? Every field has different standards for what constitutes “current” research. Make sure that this source is itself current and uses current research for its own references!
Who is hosting the information? If this information appears in a trade journal or a similar professional resource, is it a well-respected publication or one with more controversial ties or explicit biases?
Is there a “vetting” process? Although they may not use a peer review process, does the source hosting or publishing the information have a vetting process, or is anybody able to publish whatever they would like through it? For example, a newspaper article isn’t peer reviewed, but newspapers have varying levels of “built-in” credibility—a reputable newspaper has a fact checking process, which you should be able to look up online!
Some of the more informal places where you might find information that you would like to cite include websites, blogs, and videos on platforms like YouTube.
When it comes to websites, check the domain! Websites with domains like .gov (Government), .edu (Education) and .org (Professional organizations) are generally more trustworthy than generally .com or .co websites. However, that doesn’t mean that you should automatically trust them—it’s still up to you to consider their credibility based on metrics above!
As far as blogs are considered, these can be an excellent resource but should not be used as a source in your references. Academic blogs especially can be excellent ways to familiarize yourself with a research field, but you should use them as a jumping off point to find the peer reviewed research associated with the blogs!
Videos are similar to blogs. Anybody can upload a video to YouTube! If a professor or academic expert has shared a video you find compelling, see if you can find their published work on the subject through the library! If not, consider why that is.
If after all of this, you still aren’t sure about whether or not a source is credible or relevant to your research project, please speak with your professor to clarify!