Evaluating Citations

Evaluating information sources begins with the citation. Here are several tips on how you can tell which citation will lead to the most useful articles.

  1. Content
    • Does the article's title and abstract (if there is one) indicate that the article is focused on your topic? If there are subject headings instead of an abstract, do the subject headings describe your topic?
  2. Source (the journal that the article is in)
    • Is the source a well-known and respected journal? You might not know the answer to this question, but you can ask a librarian, or your instructor.
    • Which do think would be a better source for a paper on the treatment of AIDS: the New York Times, or the National Enquirer? the Journal of the American Medical Association, or Redbook? Distinguish between popular and scholarly sources.
    • Is the source read and recommended by people in the field? You will gradually get to know the professional journals in your field and what the "personality" of each is. (Try asking several of your instructors which professional journals they read or publish in--then browse through a few of them.)
  3. Date
    • When was the article published? The age of the information is especially important when writing on scientific topics because of new research being published.
  4. Author of the article
    • Gradually you will come to recognize the experts in your particular field; their articles will definitely be worth finding. 
    • Sometimes author credentials will be listed; do their credentials match the article content? Do they have the expertise required to write about that topic?
  5. Length of article
    • And finally, consider the length of the article. In Academic Search Premier there are many citations for articles that are less than 1/3 page long. While it is impossible to know exactly how valuable the article is without seeing it, the probability is that a longer article will be of more value. Remember, it takes the same amount of time to locate a 5 page article as it does a 1/5 page article.
This page was last modified on May 21, 2016