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USU Concurrent Enrollment: Evaluate Info


Should I trust this website?


The following questions and clues can help determine whether or not to trust a website, and whether or not you can consider it an authoritative and credible source:

Where is the website coming from or who is the author? Look for clues like…

  • an “About” or “More about the Author” link
  • the domain name (.edu, .com, .mil, .gov, .org)

Does the website present a certain bias or specific opinion? Look for clues like…

  • links or references to other websites or sources that might be associated with specific biases
  • the language being used

Can you tell when it was published? Look for clues like…

  • phrases that include the words “updated” or “published”
  • specific dates

Who is the target audience for the website? Look for clues like…

  • references to specific organizations or groups of people
  • advertisements that might be targeting specific groups

Finding Scholary Sources

When you are searching the library databases, you will find both articles that are scholarly and articles that are not.  The sources in library databases are credible, but your instructor may require that you choose the most credible academic sources, those that are scholarly. The easiest way to ensure your sources are scholarly is to select the "Peer Reviewed" box.

Look on the FAQ tab of this guide for more useful information on evaluating sources and more about peer review.

Popular vs. Scholarly

Professors often talk about using "scholarly" articles and avoiding "popular" sources. However, there are many sources that fall somewhere in the middle -- sources that reside between scholarly and popular. And all these sources can be helpful in their own ways. Popular sources can provide background information and context, while more scholarly information can provide hard evidence and compelling research. The following table describes popular and scholarly articles and the spaces in between. It might be more helpful to think of this as a spectrum rather than two diametrically opposed categories into which all sources must fit.


  Popular Sources Hobby Publications Trade Publications Scholarly Sources
Specificity General interest topics; news, entertainment Covers specific hobbies/interests Career-specific information Specific to a narrow area of research
Author Journalists Journalists Professionals in the field Experts
Audience EVERYONE People with similar interests/hobbies People who work in the same field Professionals and experts in the field
Reading Level 8th Grade or lower 8th Grade or lower Higher than 8th grade, may contain some jargon specific to subject area Lots of big words; lots of jargon; hard to read/understand
Purpose To entertain To inform To educate To move progression forward; to gain a new understanding of the subject area
Has an abstract? NEVER Occasionally Occasionally ALWAYS
Has a bibliography? NEVER Occasionally Occasionally ALWAYS
Examples USA Today, People Wired, Yoga Journal, Popular Science, Food & Wine Construction Worker, American Libraries Journal of American Medical Association, Journal of Hydrology

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