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WRI375H5 Writing about Environment and Ecology

Comparing Non-Scholarly and Scholarly Resources

Non-Scholarly Sources (Newspapers, Magazines, etc)        Scholarly Sources (Research Journals)
  • General Public
  • Scholars in that field and academic community
  • Journalists; professional writers; persons with a general interest in that topic
  • No research affliation or credentials given
  • Experts in that field (Faculty, Grad Students, Post-Docs, etc)
  • Articles will include author's research affliations
  • Editor working for publisher
  • Editorial Board of fellow scholars (Peers)
Citations (Footnotes, Endnotes, etc)
  • References are typically NOT included
  • Includes a bibliography, references, or works cited section.
  • Commercial publisher
  • Scholarly or professional organization or academic press
Writing Style
  • Assumes readers have no or little knowledge of topic;
  • Intended for broad readership
  • Assumes reader has a level of knowledge in the field.
  • Can be heavy on jargon and technical details related to the field.
Other Characteristics
  • Includes advertisements and pictures
  • Glossy presentation
  • Broad subject coverage
  • Text heavy, with few if any pictures
  • Tables and charts included
  • Few or no advertisements
  • A narrow subject focus

Evaluating your Scholarly Resources

Consider these criteria when evaluating your research resources:

Authority --Who is the author? What is their background/expertise?

Publisher information --Is it an academic /university press?

Currency --Is the information up to date? Is more recent research available?

Audience Level --Is the text written for a research audience? University students? General public? What is the tone of the writing? Serious or breezy?

Content Reliability/Accuracy -- is the information presented fact or opinion? Is it referenced? Can it be confirmed by other sources?

Check to see if Journal Articles are Scholarly

Evaluating Online Resources

When evaluating information sources, particulary those found online, it is critically important to consider the following criteria:


  • Can the information presented be verified?
  • Is the information well written (good grammer, no typos, correct punctuation, etc)?
  • Is the information cited properly?
  • Do other reputable sites link to it?


  • Who is publishing this content? Is it a individual, a group, an organization etc? What do we know about them?
  • Who is the author? Are the names provided? Is there contact information provided (ie. an email address)
  • What do you know of the author's credentials? Are they an 'expert' in this area of interest? What is their reputation?


  • When was the information published online? Is a date visible?
  • Is the website up to date? Refreshed regularly? Are there dead links?


  • What is the purpose of the website? (To inform, explain, persuade, sell?)
  • Is the information written for a specific audience? Could the intended audience be high school students, university scholars, etc? (Consider the tone and language of the words) Does this still make it appropriate or not for your research?
  • Is the information presented objectively? Are different perspectives included?
  • Do you detect a bias in the information and how it is presented? Does this bias detract from the usefulness of the information?

More information on Evaluating Web Resources