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Plant Pathology

Criteria for Evaluating a Resource

When evaluating a resource, whether it is print or internet-based, there are questions  use these questions to determine if it is high quality and a good match for your project or paper:

  • Authority
    Who created the resource? Are the author, organization, affiliations, and publisher clearly shown? If the page is web-based does it link to information about the organization? Do the author have credentials or expertise in the subject matter? Is the resource from a government agency, university, company, non-profit organization?

  • Accuracy
    Is the information contained in the source properly cited? Is there a bibliography or reference list? Can you verify the information in other sources? Is the information free of grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors? Are the statistical data clearly explained? Are charts and graphs properly represented and cited?

  • Objectivity
    Is the resource free of advertising, or is any advertising clearly separated from the content? Is there any bias? Is the sponsoring organization biased or motivated to report facts from a particular perspective?

  • Currency
    When was the information gathered? When was the resource created? When was it updated/ revised? Is it kept current? Is currency critical to your topic?

  • Coverage
    Is the information complete? Does it cover the subject in depth? Does it match your information needs?

These criteria were adapted from a worksheet used by the Widener Science Library.

Is it peer reviewed/refereed?

Q. What is peer review?



A. For an article to be published in an academic journal, it must be examined by experts in the field. They determine whether the information is reliable, well researched, and of interest to others who study that subject. For a more detailed explaination, watch the video above, or check out the Finding Articles Tutorial.

Q. Which journals have peer-reviewed articles?

A. To find out if a journal is peer reviewed (also known as refereed), you can use the Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory. Search by journal title, ISSN, etc. and look for the tiny referee shirt as an indicator.

Q. How do I know if an article is peer-reviewed?

A. Not every article in a peer-reviewed journal is a peer-reviewed article. Some scholarly journals also publish letters, conference notes, news items, etc. Look at the full text of the article you're interested in. A peer-reviewed article will show a string of dates, usually either near the abstract or at the bottom of the 1st page of the PDF version or at the end of the article, to indicate that the article was reviewed and usually revised.

Example: Manuscript received November 9, 2007; revised March 5, 2008. Published September 4, 2008.

Is it a primary source?

Q.   What is a primary source?

A.   Primary documents are the original source materials.

In the sciences lab data, lab notebooks, and original test protocols are considered primary documents.  Source code and release notes, field observation notes or images are also primary documents.

Journal articles are primary or first reports of research.  Books, encyclopedias, and news articles are secondary (or later) sources because they describe what you will find in the primary sources.

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