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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This does not mean that information that is not peer-reviewed is not worthwhile.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