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REL 301 Christianity and Culture

Evaluating Information - Is It Scholarly?

Evaluating Sources

For most academic research and writing you will want to understand how your topic or question is discussed among scholars in the field of study. Scholarly sources offer a powerful way to develop such an understanding.

A peer-reviewed article is a type of scholarly publication evaluated by field experts and approved before publication. Some instructors require that you use “scholarly peer-reviewed articles,” so remember that not all scholarly articles are “peer-reviewed.” 

(For some research topics you may also want to examine some non-scholarly materials. If you are not sure of the types of sources you will need, check with your instructor.)

Authority - Who wrote it?

  • Is the author credible? How do you know? What are the author’s credentials (author’s education, profession, publishing history)?
  • If the source does not identify an author, consider whether this impacts the source’s reliability.

Purpose - Why was it written?

  • Was it written for profit or to advance knowledge?

Relevance - Is it relevant to your topic?

  • Is the source too broad or too narrow to apply to your topic?
  • Who is the intended audience? Examine the tone, language, and content of the source.
  • If the source is a journal, is the journal title descriptive or specialized, indicating it was written for a particular discipline (e.g. Journal of Moral Philosophy)?
  • Are the source’s subject terms appropriately specific for your topic?

Validity - Is it well-grounded and scholarly?

  • Does the author’s evidence support or refute the author’s argument?
  • Is the author’s evidence objective research and not an editorial opinion?
  • Does the author tell you where they got their information by citing sources?
  • If the source is an article, is it longer than a page or two?
  • Do any pictures or graphs support the text? 



Introduction from “Is It Scholarly?”, Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, “How Do I,” CC BY 3.0.

Supporting text from above source and University Libraries CU-Boulder,