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Peer Research Consultants

Training and information for PRCs

Types of Materials

Journals require you to consider numerous factors. These include Purpose, Type of Journal, Organization and Content, Bias, Date, Bibliography, Usefulness, Authority Coverage, Audience, and Illustrations.


Purpose: Why was it written? To:

  • Persuade the reader to do something?
    • Such as voting a certain way, purchase something, or attend an event
  • Inform the reader?
    • Results of research, how an event went
  • Prove something?
    • A method does / does not work, a behavior is good / bad

Type of Journal:

  • Scholarly
    • For college-level papers, information should be obtained mostly from this category
    • Contains articles describing high quality research that has been reviewed by experts in the field prior to publication
    • Page enumeration is consecutive throughout volumes
    • Few or no advertisements
    • Black and white pages
    • Examples: Journal of Access Services and Journal of Applied Psychology
  • Trade
    • Useful for topics in business or where economic data is needed
    • Good for learning what the current "hot topics" are in an area
    • Page enumeration starts over with page 1 in each issue
    • Advertisements are related only to the field / focus of the journal
    • Glossy pages
    • Examples: APA Monitor and Public Management
  • Popular
    • Use sparingly or not at all
    • Page enumeration starts over with page 1 in each issue
    • Heavy advertisements
    • Pictures and illustrations with color
    • Examples: Time and Newsweek


Organization and Content

  • Is the material organized and focused?
  • Is the argument or presentation understandable?
  • Is this original research, a review of previous research, or an informative piece?

Bias (of the publisher): Is the journal:

  • Left / Liberal?
  • Right / Conservative?
  • Center?
  • An alternative press?
  • Published by a political action (PAC) group?

Date: Some topics, such as health sciences, require current information. Others, such as geology, value both older and current material. Consider if the source is:

  • Up-to-date
  • Out-of-date
  • Timeless


  • Scholarly works always contain the resources consulted
  • The list should be in sufficient quantity and be appropriate for the content

Be sure to note:

  • Does a bibliography exists?
  • How short is the bibliography?
  • Is it selective or comprehensive?
  • Are the references primary sources (such as journal articles) or only secondary sources (such as encyclopedias)?
  • Date / timeliness?
  • Is the citation style clear and consistent?


  • Is the article relevant to the research topic? It doesn't matter how good it is if it doesn't address the researcher's needs!
  • If it is useful, does it
    • Support an argument?
    • Refute an argument?
    • Give examples? (such as survey results, case studies, or primary research findings)
    • Provide "wrong" information that can be challenged or disagreed with productively?


  • Is the author an expert in their field?
  • Where is the author employed?
  • What else has has he/she/zie written?
  • Has the author won any awards or honors?


Does the article cover the topic comprehensively, partially, or is it an overview?

Audience: This ties in with the type of journal. Is the article for:

  • General readers (such as popular magazines)
  • Students - high school, college, graduate
  • Specialists (trade magazines) or professionals
  • researchers (scholarly journals) or scholars


  • Are charts, graphs, maps, photographs, etc. used to illustrate concepts?
  • Are the illustrations relevant?
  • Are they clear and professional-looking?
  • Be aware of .org vs. .com
  • Look at authors and publishers to see if they are a credible source. 
  • Look at the date to see if the website's information is relevant or not. 
  • The design of the site. Sometimes a well-designed site can be an indication for a reliable source. 
  • Look at the writing style. If there are a lot of grammar and spelling errors, it could be that the site is not credible.  
  • Look to see if the article contains a reference list. Scholarly articles do contain a reference list.

University of Wisconsin Green Bay. How Can I Tell If a Website Is Credible?, 3 June 2019,




  • Facts are often used to inform or make an argument. 
    • Ex: "The United States was established in 1776." 
  • Opinions are typically used to persuade. Although, readers will notice and demand evidence to back up their claim. 
    • Ex: "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is the GREATEST movie of all time!!"
    • Opinions can oftentimes be biased and typically do not include counter-arguments. 

University Libraries. “Fact or Opinion.” Choosing Using Sources A Guide to Academic Research, The Ohio State University,