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Syracuse University Libraries

CFS 204- Applied Research Methods in Child and Family Studies (Fall 2017): Evaluating Sources

Resources for the library research portion of the CFS 204 research assignment.

Peer-Reviewed Sources

In many databases, you will find a limit (such as a checkbox) for peer reviewed (or refereed) sources.  This allows you to limit your search to more scholarly, reliable results.

Peer review  - The process used by publishers and editors of academic journals to provide a chance for scholars to examine and critique a paper or monograph before it is published to help ensure its integrity and veracity.

[definition from: The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Archaeology. Timothy Darvill. Oxford University Press, 2002. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Syracuse Univeristy. 23 September 2005.]



Note that normally only journals are peer reviewed.  Other sources, such as books, are often scholarly, reliable information, but they are not peer reviewed.


If you have found a journal article somewhere other than in a database where you were able to limit to peer reviewed articles, you can look for information about whether the journal where your article was published is a peer reviewed (refereed) journal or not. Here are some steps to find out if a journal not found in a database is peer-reviewed:


1. Find the title of the journal.  There will also be a title to your article, but you need the name of the journal the article is in, not the title of the article.  Sometimes the journal title will be in italics, bold or underlined.  Sometimes it will be labeled "Source."  Sometimes it will be in the top or bottom margins of the article.  Sometimes it will include the word journal (Journal of Social Work) and sometimes it will not (Children and Youth Services Review).  If you cannot find the title of the journal (as well as the title of the article), your source may not actually be a journal article.  You will have to be able to find the journal title to find out if it is peer reviewed or not.  


2. Once you have found the title of the journal, there are two ways to check if it is peer reviewed:

a. You can search for the journal title on Google, looking for the journal's website.  The journal's website will normally tell you whether it is peer reviewed (or refereed).  This information may show up on the journal's homepage, it may be in a section for authors, or elsewhere.

b. Alternatively, you can enter the journal title into the Ulrich's database.  Look for the exact title of your journal.  If it is listed with this icon:

  Refereed then it is refereed/peer reviewed.





Questions you should ask of every source you find


  • What is the publication/creation date?
  • Does this time period meet your information need?
  • When was the last update?
  • Are all the links up-to-date ( for web resources)?


  • Who is the author?  What are her/his credentials?
  • Has the author been cited in other sources?
  • Who is publishing this information (individual, non-profit organization, commercial entity)?


  • Do other sources contain the same information?
  • Is evidence given to support the information?
  • Are other sources cited?
  • Is the site edited, or does it contain typographical errors (for web resources)?


  • Who is the intended audience (students, researchers, trades people, children, adults)?
  • Is this source appropriate for your needs and understanding of the topic?

Point of View (Bias)

  • Does the source present the information from a particular bias or single viewpoint?
  • Does the source contain assumptions not backed by research?
  • Does the sponsoring organization or site have a stake in how information is presented?
  • Does the information contain advertising?

The scholarly research article


Although GoogleScholar can be useful, not everything you find in Google Scholar is peer reviewed or a reliable source for your papers. You can use the tips in the Google Guide to evaluate the sources you find in Google Scholar: Google Guide

In GoogleScholar settings you can go to Library links, and check the boxes for Syracuse University.  This will give you more direct links from GoogleScholar into SULibrary's subscription resources, for the vendors that work with GoogleScholar.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

To understand the difference between primary and secondary sources of information, including scholarly vs. popular publications please view this short tutorial created by Tara Radniecki:  Types of Academic Sources.