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ENG 350 - Tigchelaar: Source Types & Evaluation

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 Source Types & Evaluation

This page provides links to information on the types of sources you may need to use for your research project. It's important to understand the differences between source types to ensure you're finding and using the correct sources. It's also important to evaluate any source, but especially popular sources. Use the steps below to determine whether or not to use material that you have found online or via a library database. 


Popular/Scholarly & Primary/Secondary

Evaluating Popular and Scholarly Sources 

Click on the above link to learn about the difference between popular sources (like Time Magazine, Newsweek, and Business Week) and scholarly sources (such as The Journal of American History, Scandinavian Studies). 

Understanding Primary and Secondary Sources 

Click on the above link to learn about the differences between primary sources (created first; or, created during the time period being studied) and secondary sources (created after the primary source; created after the time period being studied). 

Peer-Reviewed Sources

In some library databases, there is an option to narrow your search results to peer-reviewed only. These are scholarly sources that have undergone an extra level of authenticity by being approved regarding the content, such as: Is the research up-do-date? Is it contributing something to the field? Is it presenting all sides? If not, is it at least acknowledging the lack? Are the structure and citations correctly formatted? 

Expert tip: look for any options to narrow down your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed only. Typically, this option is located on the left side, the right side of a search page, or at the top or bottom. Sometimes, you will need to look for and click on the Advanced Search option to find this. Sometimes, though, it is simply not available as an option. 

Internet Sources

An internet source is anything you can access for free via a search engine (such as Google Chrome or Apple Safari). These sources include social media, news sites, blogs, information pages, and more. Information found on the internet must be evaluated because anyone can put anything on the internet.

Internet sources are very different from the library database's scholarly sources, which are accessed online via the library's homepage. What is a Library Database?

Marshall University Libraries pays for online databases so that students, faculty, and staff can access credible information for free. Nearly all of the information in the library databases is not available on the internet (or, if it is available, you will likely be asked to pay money to access it). 

Evaluating Sources


Personal steps

Identify emotions attached to topic.
Find unbiased reference sources for proper review of topic (such as Credo Reference).

Intellectual courage to seek authoritative voices on topic that may be outside of thesis.


Source steps

Authority established. Does the author have education and experience in that field?
Purpose/Point of view of source. Does the author have an agenda beyond education or information?
Publisher? Does the publisher have an agenda?
List of sources (bibliography). Is the evidence sound?
Year of publication. Does the year of publication effect the information?