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Research Guides

HIS106: Natives, Settlers, and Slaves: Colonizing the Americas, 1492–1804

Choosing sources

When choosing books or articles for your paper, consider the following:

Are they relevant to your topic, and the argument that you wish to make?

Are they current? Some of your sources should reflect current research.

Are they substantial? Beware of an article that is only a couple of pages.

Are they scholarly? 


Scholarly sources

... report on original research by experts in a particular academic discipline.

Often they go through a peer-review process, which means that they are evaluated by reputable scholars in the field before they are published.

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Criteria for evaluating scholarly journals


Who wrote it?



Does the author acknowledge his or her sources? How?



Is the content substantial?

Does it appear to be valid and well-researched?

Does it make sense, based on your own background knowledge, or what other articles have to say on the topic?



Is the language scholarly?

Is the article well written?

Do illustrations and data support the content in a scholarly fashion, or do they appear to be attention-getting, or sensational?



Who is the article written for?

Is it written for experts and researchers in the field, or for members of the general public?



Is it published in a scholarly journal?


Here are excellent explanations of how to evaluate information sources, and  how to distinguish between scholarly and other periodicals.


Is the journal scholarly?

Is the journal itself scholarly? How would you find out?

Look up the journal web site on google and look for their editorial policy. The following are good signs:

Is it published by a scholarly association?

Does it list the members of the editorial board, and are they recognized scholars in the field? Are they affiliated with universities or other research bodies?

Does it say that the journal is peer-reviewed?


You can also look up the name of a journal in Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory to see if it is scholarly or peer-reviewed.

Look up the name of your journal, then look for the icons on the side. Putting quotes around the name of the journal may help you find it, as in,  "American Historical Review."  

Look at your results:



The referee's shirt means that the journal is peer-reviewed. The star means that it is scholarly.