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HED 373 - Evaluation and Research Design

Critical Review

What is Peer Review?

Peer Review is a critical part of evaluating information. It is a process that journals use to ensure the articles they publish represent the best scholarship currently available, and articles from peer reviewed journal are often grounded in empirical research. When an article is submitted to a peer reviewed journal, the editors send it out to other scholars in the same field (the author's peers) to get their assessment of the quality of the scholarship, its relevance to the field, its appropriateness for the journal, etc. Sometimes, you'll see this referred to as "refereed." 

Publications that don't use peer review (Time, Cosmo, Salon) rely on an editor to determine the value of an article. Their goal is mainly to educate or entertain the general public, not to support scholarly research.

Most library databases will have a search feature that allows you to limit your results to peer reviewed or scholarly sources.

If you can't tell whether or not a journal is peer-reviewed, check Ulrichsweb.

  1. Access the database here: Ulrichsweb
  2. Type in the title of the journal
  3. Peer-reviewed journals will have a referee jersey ("refereed" is another term for "peer-reviewed") - example below

Evaluation Criteria

Use the criteria below to help you evaluate a source.  As you do, remember:

  • Each criterion should be considered in the context of your research question. For example, currency changes if you are working on a current event vs. a historical topic.
  • Weigh all four criteria when making your decision. For example, the information may appear accurate, but if the authority is suspect you may want to find a more authoritative source for your information.

Criteria to consider:

  1. Currency: When was the information published or last updated? Is it current enough for your topic?
  2. Relevance: Is this information that you are looking for? Is it related to your topic? Is it detailed enough to help you answer questions on your topic.
  3. Authority: Who is the author or creator of the information (can be an individual or an organization)? Are they an expert on your topic? Has the source been peer reviewed? Who is the publisher? Are they reputable?
  4. Accuracy: Is the information true? What information does the author cite or refer to? Can you find this information anywhere else? Can you find evidence to back it up from another resource? Are studies mentioned but not cited (this would be something to check on)? Can you locate those studies?
  5. Methodology: What type of study did they conduct? Is it an appropriate type of study to answer their research question?  How many people were involved in the study? Is the sample size large and diverse enough to give trustworthy results?
  6. Purpose/perspective: What is the purpose of the information? Was it written to sell something or to convince you of something? Is this fact or opinion based? Is it unfairly biased?

What is a Scholarly Article?

Usually, when we talk about scholarly articles, we're talking about articles that are peer reviewed. These articles are written by experts in a particular field and vetted by other experts to ensure that an article is of appropriate scholarly quality.

Look to see if the article has:

  • Abstract
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Conclusion
  • Results
  • References

To search for scholarly articles, you will want to use the databases available through UT Libraries. A few of the databases most relevant for health education are included on the Literature Reviews page. These databases allow you to limit your search to only peer-reviewed articles.


What determines authority?

Who grants authority?

  1. Experts: for scholarly articles, authority is determined by experts with a particular field. Just because an author has authority in one discipline, does not mean that have authority in another. 
  2. You: the authority of any scholarly article depends on the context in which it is used and it's relevance in addressing your research purposes.
    • Does the article address your research question?
    • Is the study's methodology sufficient to answer your research question?
    • Does the age of the article matter for your purposes?

What to look for in determining authority

  • Was the article published in a reputable journal?
  • Has the article been cited by other authors?
  • Who is the author? Are they an expert in their field?

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