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Chemistry: Evaluating Sources

A general guide to library resources for the chemistry discipline.

Identifying Scholarly Information Module

This video examines scholarly information and its importance for college-level assignments. The module defines peer‑reviewed information and provides tips to differentiate scholarly journal articles from popular magazines and newspapers.  

Types of Sources Table

Types of Sources

  Scholarly Publications Substantive/Trade Publications Popular Publications Sensationalist Publications
Audience Academics, professors, students. Educated audiences, practitioners. General public. Gullible audiences.
Author Scholars, experts, and specialists; credentials are listed. Credentialed journalists; professionals and industry experts; credentials are usually listed. Professional writers: journalists, staff, freelance writers; not necessarily experts in the field; authors and/or credentials not always listed. Anyone.
Publisher Academic presses and professional organizations. Nationally and internationally recognized organizations. Commercial businesses. Varies. Ranges from individuals to politically-minded groups to hate groups.
Purpose Report on scholarship and research. Share news and trends with industry professionals. Information and/or entertainment. Cater to superstitions; elicit emotions and strong feelings for or against a particular topic.
Tone Factual, technical, and scholarly language. Formal, technical language. Often uses industry jargon. Relatively simple language. Sensational terms. Propaganda. Often uses inflammatory or derogatory language.
Appearance Usually plain. May have tables, graphs, charts, and formulas. If photographs are present, they are directly associated with the topic. Tables, charts, graphs, and images related to the article. More graphic design elements than scholarly publications. Eye-catching and colorful. Eye-catching and colorful; sometimes newspaper-like. Often only available online.
Advertisements Limited to advertisements for books and journals. Most often limited to advertisements for items directly related to the publication or trade; some paid advertisements. Paid advertisements. Paid advertisements, often making their own sensationalist claims. Clickbait.
Review Process Reviewed by scholars. All data and interpretations of data are checked. Reviewed by professional editors employed by the publication. Facts are checked. Reviewed by professional editors employed by the publication. Facts might be checked. No apparent or consistent review process.
Sources Always contains a bibliography, works cited, or references. Often contains in-text citations. May contain references list. Rarely identifies sources. Rarely identifies sources. If sources are listed, they may not actually be reliable sources of information.
Examples Academy of Management Review; Journal of Popular Culture; ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering The Atlantic Monthly; Economist; AdWeek; Government reports and data-sets. Time; Women's Health; Pride; Life Magazine Federalist Tribune; Occupy Democrats; National Enquirer

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