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Evaluate Information

A how-to guide covering topics related to the evaluation of information.

Types of Articles

In your academic career you will see and use many different types of resources. Before you can evaluate each resource to determine if it is appropriate, it is important to understand the types of resources. This chart can help you determine what kind of source you are looking at and learn a few characteristics that make up that resource. Once you know what kind of resource you can, you can evaluate it and then cite it more accurately.

Resource Comparison Chart

  Peer Reviewed Journals and/or Books Academic Journals and/or Books Trade Journals Popular Books Newspapers Websites Magazines Encyclopedias
Purpose To show and discuss research and publish experimentation in a field. To show and discuss research and publish experimentation in a field. Gives information to working professionals that shows trends and pertinent topics. Covers a more general topic with a wide array to information. Provides current news and articles about larger investigative topics. A set of related web pages located under a single site. Provides information about a single topic or general topics. Compilation of short informational pages on all topics.
Authors Written by and for scholars or researchers in a specific discipline. Written by and for scholars, experts, or researchers in a specific discipline Experts and academics in a certain field. Experts and academics in a certain field. Staff reporters or writers. Produced by a single person or organization but can be a compilation of participants. Staff or freelance columnists, writers, reporters, experts. An organization or a compilation of participants.
Use Course project, assignments, and research with a peer review requirement. Lends credibility to your own ideas and hypotheses. Course project, assignments, and research without a peer review requirement. Lends credibility to your own ideas and hypotheses. Useful for doing an analysis of a particular industry, topic papers and assignments that do not require academic sources. Useful for general knowledge on a topic where peer review is not required. ex.: theory information, definitions Good for exploring potential topics learning about current issues.  Gaining general information to explore topics. Websites need to be analyzed carefully. Good for identifying potential topics for a research project as well as identifying current or hot issues. Exploring topics and gaining general knowledge. Good for identifying key players in the field and generating keywords for academic research.
Audience Reader is assumed to have a similar scholarly background. Reader is assumed to have a similar scholarly background. Written for practicing professionals. Broad audience. Written for gaining general knowledge. Broad audience. Broad audience. Broad audience. Broad audience.
Review Process Goes through a strict review process by peers. Reviewed by editors. Reviewed by editorial staff and rarely by peers. Reviewed by editors and publishers. Reviewed by editors. No review process. Reviewed by editors. Reviewed by moderators or editors.
Citations Always cited as footnotes, endnotes, or reference lists (bibliographies). Always cited as footnotes, endnotes, or reference lists (bibliographies). Sources are mentioned within an article but rarely formally cited. Always cited as footnotes, endnotes, or reference lists (bibliographies). Sources are mentioned within an article but rarely formally cited. Sources are at times mentioned within a webpage but rarely formally cited. Sources are mentioned within an article but rarely formally cited. Strict citation requirements.
Language Uses discipline-specific terminology, jargon, & language. Uses discipline-specific terminology, jargon, & language. Uses jargon specific to to a particular field or industry. Uses general, everyday language but often introduces jargon to prepare the reader. Uses general, everyday language. Uses general, everyday language. Uses general, everyday language. Uses general, everyday language.
Publishers Most often published by a professional organization or specialty publishing company. Most often published by a professional organization or specialty publishing company. Often published by professional organizations relevant to a particular field or industry. Generally published by large publishing companies for profit. Generally published by commercial enterprises for profit. Published by broad variety from individuals to companies to government organizations. Generally published by commercial enterprises for profit. Published by publishing companies or crowd sourced (ex.: Wikipedia).
Advertising Typically none or small amounts of selective advertising. Typically none or small amounts of selective advertising. Advertising is relevant to the profession or industry. Rare. Advertising appeals to a broad readership. Significant amounts and appeals to a broad audience. Significant amounts and appeals to a broad audience. Advertising appeals to a broad readership.

Adapted from Instruction and Student Engagement Department, Milner Library, Illinois State University. (2022). Compare article types. https://guides.library.illinoisstate.edu/comparetypes/chart