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Evaluating Information: Types of Information

Resources for evaluating information to determine its reliability

Scholarly Versus Popular Sources

A scholarly or peer-reviewed (also called refereed) article is written by scholars in the field and is highly reputable. Before this type of article is published, it is reviewed by other experts in the field. The reviewers evaluate the content and make suggestions on how to improve it; the author then incorporates their feedback into the article.

This does not mean that information that is not peer-reviewed is not worthwhile. Many publications that are not technically scholarly (i.e. ArtForum or The New York Times) are still highly valuable and contain credible information. Also keep in mind that many primary sources (interviews, etc.) are published in popular publications. See the "Evaluating Information" tab for help deciding if a site is reliable.

Primary, Secondary, & Tertiary Sources

Primary sources can range from an original creative work, to survey data, to an interview with an artist or designer. Depending on the discipline, what is considered a primary source may change. See the table below for more guidance (click to enlarge).

Table from Loyola Marymount University's William H. Hannon Library

Popular Publications

Advantages

Often very current because the research and publishing process is not drawn out

Often easily accessible in terms of cost

Easy to read and understand

Disadvantages

May lack extensive notes or sources (or may not have any)

Quality is less definitively high

Written to a less-informed audience

More informal than scholarly or trade publications

Examples Time, National Geographic, Newsweek

Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Publications

Advantages

Evaluated by other experts in the field (peer-reviewed)

Extensively researched with notes and cited references

Written by scholars in the field

Disadvantages

Research and publishing processes can take awhile so often not the best for current events

Can be very dense, long, and/or technical

Examples African Art, Art Bulletin, International Journal of Design, Animation Journal, Textile Forum

Trade Publications

Advantages

Written to a specialized audience (assumes a basic understanding of the field)

Often very current because research and publishing process is not drawn out

Often written by a professional in the field or someone with subject expertise

Disadvantages

Not peer-reviewed

Likely uses specialized language

More informal than a scholarly article

Examples ArtForum, Psychology Today, Plastic and Rubber News

Newspapers

Advantages

Focused on current events so information is very up-to-date

Generally follow journalistic standards for content

Written by staff and journalists

Easy to understand

Disadvantages

Usually informal tone

Written to a less-informed, general audience

Quality is less definitively high

Examples The New York TimesDetroit Free PressDetroit News
College for Creative Studies website