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Evaluating Periodical Articles

While most articles go through either a peer review process or editorial process, finding information in print doesn’t automatically guarantee accuracy or authority. Developing a keen, critical mindset as you choose resources will aid you in choosing high quality sources.  Here are some questions to use as you evaluate periodical articles.

What is the article’s purpose?

  • Persuade the reader to do something? i.e. vote a certain way, purchase something, attend something?
  • Inform the reader i.e. give results of an experiment or study? inform of current events?
  • Prove something? i.e.  that a method works/doesn’t work?
  • Entertain? For example: fiction, humor, gossip
  • Teach how to do something? For example: resumes, cover letters, care plans, lesson plans, etc.

For information, including a summary description and publisher information, about different periodicals, check out Magazines for Libraries [Ref. PN4832.M23 2002] in the Ready Reference area, behind the Reference Desk.

What type of periodical is it?

  • Scholarly journals contain high quality research that has been reviewed by experts in the field prior to publication
  • Trade magazines are written for professionals within a certain field (i.e. business, engineering, nursing, etc.).
  • Popular magazines are written for general public. They contain stories on current events, pop culture, and general interest stories.

What is the bias of the publisher?

Does the publication have an inherent bias that will impact articles printed in them? Is the journal:

  • Left/liberal?
  • Right/conservative?
  • Center?
  • An alternative press?
  • Published by a political action group?
    Magazines for Libraries (Ref PN 4832 1995) identifies ideological slants for many periodicals found in libraries

What is the date of publication?

For your research topic is the material:

  • Up-to-date
  • Out-of-date
  • Timeless?

What is the authority of the author?

  • Is the author an expert in the field?
  • Where is the author employed?
  • What else has he/she written?
  • Has he/she won awards?

Who is the audience for the article?

Is the article for:

  • General readers
  • Students at high schools, college or graduate school
  • Professionals or specialists
  • Researchers

Is there a bibliography?

Scholarly works contain a bibliography of resources that were consulted. References should be in sufficient quantity and be appropriate for the content.

  • Does a bibliography exist?
  • Is it short or long?
  • Is it selective or comprehensive?
  • Are references to primary sources or only secondary sources?
  • Are references sufficiently up-to-date for the book or are they too far out of date when the book was published?
  • Is the citation style clear and consistent?