Skip to main content

Research Guides@Tufts

Evaluating Information

Evaluating Articles

When reading articles, ask yourself the following questions to help you assess what type of publication you are reading:

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • What authority does the author have to write on the topic covered? Is the author a freelance writer? A practitioner? A scholar?
  • What is the author's point of view (or of the publication as a whole)?
  • Who produced the material and why are they publishing this information?
  • Does the type of information provided meet my research needs?
  • Is the information provided relevant to my topic or research question?

Types of Articles

When using article databases, you will typically locate articles that come from a wide range of types of publications. The type of information presented and how you will use it will vary according to the type of publication.

Popular Publications Substantive Publications Trade & Professional Publications Scholarly Publications
These publications are written for a general audience. Topics covered are current events, entertainment, and other issues. Articles are usually written by journalists or freelance writers. Articles do not include references to sources used. Most newspapers are popular publications. These publications offer more in-depth coverage of news and current events/issues than popular titles. Often they are devoted to a particular topic. These publications are targeted at people who have no specialized training in an area but who want more analysis than a popular publication can offer. The authors are a mix of journalists and people who work in a field. These publications are written for practitioners in a specific field. They do not publish original peer-reviewed research or scholarship, but they will often refer to original research and scholarship from scholarly publications. Phrases like "Researchers have found..." or "in a recent study..." generally introduce the scholarship published elsewhere. Also known as academic, refereed, or peer-reviewed, these publications offer in-depth research for an academic audience. Authors are researchers or scholars in the discipline. These articles usually include a discussion of research methods, data, and full references to sources (footnotes or bibliography). Articles are written for other researchers and scholars. Usually the topics covered are very specialized and very specific.
Examples:
Time Magazine
Boston Globe
Examples:
Scientific American
The Economist
Examples:
Monitor on Psychology
Education Week
Examples:
Nature Neuroscience
Journal of Happiness Studies

Sometimes it can be challenging to decide exactly which category a title falls into. You may find it useful to think of the various types of publications as all having a place along a continuum, from popular to scholarly.

Each of these publications has a place in doing research. For example, you might consult a popular publication to see for yourself how the popular media covers a certain topic (for example, "How is Japanese youth culture today different than 20 years ago?"). You would then use a scholarly publication to see how scholars have conducted research on this same topic and what conclusions their research has led them to.