One of the constants in requests for library literacy sessions is the need for students to evaluate sources of information. Information is available at the fingertips, with just the touch of a screen, the slide on a pad, the click of a button or the movement of a mouse. Ready content from generative AI tools have swung on to the information superhighway with other electronic sources of material. With information so readily accessible, how can students determine what may or may not be used for assignments and other projects and research? How can they evaluate sources of information for use?
A useful library guide from Cornell University identifies four broad categories of journals:
1. Scholarly: written by scholars or professionals who are experts in their fields
2. Substantive News/General Interest: provides information of events and issues of public concern
3. Popular: reflects the tastes of the public and are largely for entertainment
4. Sensational: written to arouse or incite curiosity and is not usually factual
Academic or Scholarly?
While the terms "Academic" and "Scholarly" are often used interchangeably, EBSCO separates them as follows:
Academic Journals: “Journals that publish articles which carry footnotes and bibliographies, and whose intended audience is comprised of some kind of research community. It is a broad classification that includes both "peer-reviewed" journals as well as journals that are not "peer-reviewed" but intended for an academic audience.”
Scholarly (Peer-reviewed) Journals: “Journals that are intended for an academic audience and are peer-reviewed.”
All peer-reviewed articles are scholarly articles, but not all scholarly articles are peer-reviewed. How can you tell if a journal or article is peer-reviewed?
This blog How Can I Tell if a Journal is Peer Reviewed? is a useful resource for identifying peer-reviewed material.
If you find scholarly sources via a website that is not the homepage of an academic journal you may be directed to academic databases (to which your library may subscribe) or to google scholar. When this does not occur, you need to evaluate the sources to which you are directed. CRAAP is a useful acronym to use in evaluating websites and other online sources of information.
The CRAAP Test
Here is a link to a video on the CRAAP Test as well as an evaluation checklist.
Your library subscribes to academic databases so you may not need to apply the CRAAP test if a search is done via the library’s databases. However, if you are asked for peer-reviewed material, you will to specify such in your search across the Library’s databases.
This library guide provides additional guidelines for evaluating sources of information: