Skip to Main Content
University of Texas University of Texas Libraries

KIN 386 - Research Methods

Evaluating Sources

Identifying Scholarly Articles

Look to see if the article has:

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

Peer reviewed articles will follow the above format, but so will other articles. To double-check whether an article is peer reviewed or not, copy and paste the title of the publication into the Ulrichsweb database and look for the referee jersey symbol.

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?

Evidence Pyramid

Different types of studies are considered to have different levels of quality of evidence. The pyramid below shows the general ranking of studies by the quality of evidence they are anticipated to contain.

Image of evidence pyramid indicating the levels of the quality of evidence: 1, Systematic reviews & meta-analyses, 2, Clinical guidelines, 3, Randomized controlled trials, 4, quasi-experimental studies, 5, cohort studies, 6, case studies, 7, background information

Adapted from Walden University's Evidence-Based Practice Research: Levels of Evidence Pyramid


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?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License.