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COMM 220 - Public Speaking: Evaluating Sources

Scholarly, Professional, Popular?

When you have a research assignment , note what types of articles are required evidence for your thesis or question. Some professors require you to use only scholarly peer-reviewed journals while others might allow professional or trade journals and newspapers.

Scholarly article - Peer-reviewed or scholarly articles are written by an expert or scholar in the field and reviewed by peers who are experts in the same subject.

Professional/trade article - Trade or professional journals have articles written by experts in the field or by staff writers. The articles are reviewed by the editor. The articlesusually do not include reference lists.

Popular journals - Popular journals or magazines are written for a general audience rather than for professionals or scholars. Examples include the New Yorker, National Geographic, and the Rolling Stone.

Peer-Reviewed, Popular… or in Between?

Questions to Ask when Evaluating Articles

  Scholarly, Peer-reviewed, Professional Journals Popular Magazines
Examples Harvard Business Review; American Journal of Sociology; Modern Language Notes

Newsweek; Sports Illustrated; People; National Geographic; Wired

What is “the look”? Somber, serious with graphs and tables. Few, if any, pictures. Attractive, slick with lots of pictures and advertisements.
Who is the audience? Other professionals in the field or discipline. Language is scholarly and subject specific. General audience. Language relative to the topic. Articles can be short and lacking depth.
What is the purpose? To report original research or experimentation or persuade based on research.

To entertain, to sell, or to promote a viewpoint.

Who wrote the article? A scholar or researcher often with an institutional or academic affiliation.

Freelance writers, magazine staff or a well-known person not necessarily an expert in the field.

How carefully is it documented? Always has references, footnotes and/or a bibliography. Follows a style like APA or MLA. Rarely cites sources or makes broad references to sources.

The C.R.A.P. Test

C.R.A.P. is short for

C. Currency

R. Reliability

A. Authority

P. Purpose/Point of View

Applying the C.R.A.P. Test to a source, such as a book, article, or website,  is one way to evaluate the quality and value of it before you start writing your paper. The quality of your final research project is related to the quality of the sources you use. Check out this handout about the C.R.A.P. test.

The C.R.A.P. Test in action: Websites

This 5-minute video demonstrates using the C.R.A.P. test (Currency, Reliability, Authority, and Purpose/Point of view) to evaluate websites on the topic of performance enhancing drugs in sports.