Skip to main content

HORT 1175: Storying the Foodshed: Evaluating Credibility

Credibility Checklist

Evaluating Sources: Questions to Ask & Strategies for Getting the Answers:

  EXERCISE: For the reference you found, answer the questions on this evaluation checklist. Beside the first question, these work for print as well as web resources.

  • Authority:  Can you identify the author or creator?  What are the author's credentials (educational background, past writing, experience) in this area?        
  • Currency:   Is the source current or out of date for your topic? Can you even find a date of publication or last update?
  • Purpose: What is the purpose or motive for the publication/site? (e.g., educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional) Is it trying to sell you something?
  • Bias:  would you say the information is fact, opinion, or propaganda? In other words, what's the bias?    Is the author's point of view objective and impartial? 
  • Accuracy of Details: Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched? Are sources listed in a bibliography or included in links to the documents themselves?  Are the sources themselves authoritative?


Is It A Review Article or Primary Research Article?

Review or Primary Research?

Scientific and quantitative research articles are written differently than articles in the social sciences and humanities. For starters, scientific journals tend to publish a mix of review articles, news, letters or short communications, opinion/editorials, and original research. News sources often report on primary (original) studies in easily understood language but look up the primary article to see if the reporting is accurate! Review articles are summaries of original research that tend to be easier for laypeople to approach.


PRIMARY RESEARCH articles tend to follow a pretty standard layout, consisting of:

1. Original research (includes the data)

2. Usually reported in the following sections:

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction/Background
  3. Methods 
  4. Results
  5. Discussion/Conclusion
3. Includes references/works cited
Review articles summarize and analyze a number of original studies, and their references are a good source for finding an overview and citations to primary literature on a topic. NOTE: Review articles are different from peer review as explained above; the latter is the process of vetting new research before publication.

Be Critical.

Analyze and evaluate your search results. Have you found the most authoritative, accurate, objective, up-to-date, scholarly information available on your research topic?


Is It Peer-Reviewed & How Can I Tell?

What's peer review and why should you care? Check out this Peer Review in 5 Minutes video.

There are a couple of ways you can tell if a journal is peer-reviewed:

  • If it's online, go to the journal home page and check under About This Journal. Often the brief description of the journal will note that it is peer-reviewed or refereed or will list the Editors or Editorial Board.
  • Go to the database Ulrich's and do a Title Keyword search for the journal. If it is peer-reviewed or refereed, the title will have a little umpire shirt symbol by it.
  • BE CAREFUL! A journal can be refereed/peer-reviewed and still have non-peer reviewed articles in it. Generally if the article is an editorial, brief news item or short communication, it's not been through the full peer-review process. Databases like Web of Knowledge will let you restrict your search only to articles (and not editorials, conference proceedings, etc).

Web Accessibility Assistance