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Research Guides

Scholarly Sources

Cover of the Journal of American Ethnic History. Green-colored cover of Food, Culture, & Society, an International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research.Cover of the new media & society journal.     

Reliability Rating 

A scale from least to most reliable with a white arrow pointing to most reliable.


GREEN: Be thoughtful, these sources undergo a fairly stringent editorial and peer-review process but quality can vary.

What are scholarly articles and academic journals?

Scholarly articles are those that are published in academic journals. There are academic journals for every subject area. For example New Media and Society is an academic journal in the field of communications while American Historical Review is one for the field of history.

The purpose academic journals is to disseminate research and scholarly discussions among scholars (faculty, researchers, students) in a discipline. 

Academic journals and scholarly articles share the following characteristics:

  • They are written by professors, researchers and other scholars
  • They are published by professional associations, university publishers or other academic publishers
  • They are highly specialized and may use technical language
  • They may include graphs and tables
  • They will will cite their sources and include footnotes/endnotes and/or a bibliography
  • Most importantly they are peer reviewed (refereed) before publication.

What is peer review?

Peer Reviewed Journals are scholarly journals that go through the peer review (sometimes called referee) process.  The purpose of the process is to assess the quality of articles submitted for publication in a scholarly journal.  Before an article is published in a peer reviewed journal, it must go through this process:

  1. The author of the article submits it to the journal editor. The editor asks experts (reviewers) in the field (scholars who specialize in the same scholarly area as the content of the article) to review it. The editor often removes the author's name from the article so that the reviewers judge the content of the article without reference to who wrote it.

  2. The reviewers carefully evaluate the quality of the article.  They check it for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and process.

  3. If needed, they suggest revisions.  If they find the article lacking in scholarly validity, they reject it. 

  4. The editor follows the recommendation of the reviewers, accepting the article for publication or rejecting it.


A peer reviewed journal does not publish articles that fail to meet the standards established for a discipline. For this reason, peer reviewed articles accepted for publication exemplify the best research practices in a field.

Need to verify that a journal is peer reviewed (refereed)? Search the Icon of a padlock Ulrichsweb periodicals directory for the title of the journal, if you see this icon icon of a referee jersey the journal is refereed.

ASK YOURSELF:  Is this source CRAAP?  

The CRAAP Test helps you to evaluate the information that you find.  Different criteria will be more or less useful depending on your need.

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Does your topic require current information or will older sources also work?
  • Are the links functional?


Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic or answer your question?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is the one you will use?
  • Would you be comfortable using this source for a research paper?


Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author / publisher / source / sponsor?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or email address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the source?  (More info about URLs and Internet Domains)


Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness, and correctness of the information

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?
  • Can you verify any of the information in another source or from personal knowledge?
  • Does the language or tone seem biased and free of emotion?
  • Are there spelling, grammar, or other typographical errors?


Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information?  Is it to inform, teach, sell, entertain, or persuade?
  • Do the authors / sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?


Credits: content used on this page was adapted from:  Evaluating Information - Applying the CRAAP Test. The CRAAP Test was created by Sarah Blakeslee of the University of California at Chico's Meriam Library.