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EDUC 6500: Introduction to Student Affairs and Higher Education

A guide to research for EDUC 6500 Fall 2016 taught by Andy Sonn.

Scholarly vs. Popular

Popular Sources  Examples include: newspapers and magazines like Washington Post or The Economist. Written by journalists. Journalists are good writers and researchers, but they are not necessarily experts in the topic they are writing about.  Written for a broad audience.  Editors determine what is published  Peer Reviewed  Examples include journals like Nature or The Journal of Sociology. Written by experts  Written for other experts in the discipline and also students.  Articles are evaluated by other experts before they are considered for publication.    Scholarly Sources  Scholarly or academic sources are also written by experts in their field, but they are not necessarily evaluated by other experts before being published.

How do I evaluate what I find?

As you know, some information is better researched, more reliable, and more balanced than other sources. Use these guidelines to help you evaluate your sources.

(Note: Depending on how you are using a source, you may have different criteria. For example, if you are using Tweets from Twitter to demonstrate a popular opinion, then that social media website is an excellent source. For other research projects, Tweets may be inappropriate, however.)



  • Is the author an expert in the field, or what are the author's credentials?  Do a Google search or look up what else this person has written.
  • When evaluating a web page check to see if an author is listed.


  • When was the information published or posted? Is the date of publication important for your research? It may or may not be.
  • If it's a web page, are the links functional? Has it been revised or updated?


  • Does the information answer a part of your research question?
  • Who is the intended audience? Is a commercial site for the general public, like WebMD, appropriate, or would an article written by a physician for other physicians be a better fit?


  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Has it been verified or put through a peer-reviewed process?


  • Who is the author, or sponsor, of the information? Does the author or website have an agenda? For example, the Salt Institute would not publish information that made salt appear unhealthy.
  • Is the information basically objective and fact-based, or is it an opinion or propaganda?


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