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Reading Critically and Evaluating Sources

Learn how to critically read and evaluate the sources you would like to use in your research.

What is peer-review? 

Peer-reviewed sources are a type of scholarly source. Peer-review is the process that journal articles undergo before they can be published in most academic journals. During the peer-review process, an article is screened and evaluated by a panel of experts before it is published. Reviewers check the article for quality, credibility, and accuracy. 

Journals are usually peer-reviewed when:

  • They are published or sponsored by professional scholarly societies or associations. 

  • They have a list of reviewers or an editorial board of experts listed on the journal's website.

If you have found your article in an online database, the database may indicate if an article is peer-reviewed. You can do an internet search for your journal's name to see if the publisher's site can verify that it is peer-reviewed.

Many databases have an option for limiting or refining your results to peer-reviewed journals. Journals can be scholarly without being peer-reviewed. 

Remember to evaluate your article even if it comes from a peer-reviewed journal. 


Red Deer College Library. Evaluating sources: What does "peer reviewed mean? [LibGuide]. Retrieved on October, 2, 2020 from 

What is a scholarly source? 

Academic books are not commonly peer-reviewed because the process would take too long. Despite their lack of peer-review, they can still contain valuable scholarly content. You can use your "refine results" limiters to search for scholarly books.

If you are trying to decide whether a book is considered "scholarly," look at:

  • the publisher (does it come from a university or academic press?),

  • the author (what are their credentials? where do they work?),

  • check if there are lots of references in the book (this shows scholarly conversation), and

  • make sure the work is current (check the publication date, what has been published since that work came out, etc.). 

What is original research? 

Original research is when an author is writing about the study/research/experiment that they conducted. An article that reports on original research usually follows a similar format, but not always.

Common Original Research Format:

  • Abstract 

  • Literature Review 

  • Methods 

  • Results

  • Conclusion and/or Discussion 

Most databases will not let you filter results for original research, so you will have to critically assess the article and judge whether it is original research for yourself. 

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