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100T: Science and Agriculture

A introductory guide to university resources for first year students in Science and Agriculture Majors

Popular vs Scholarly Sources

Scholarly journals have collections of articles written by experts in academic or professional fields to keep others interested in that field, up-to-date on the most recent research, findings, and news. These articles are reviewed by a journal editorial board or experts in the specific discipline (peer-reviewed).

Popular Sources are articles, blog posts, and news feeds that are written primarily by journalists to inform the general public about interesting and newsworthy events. These articles may or may not be subject to a review process and should be heavily evaluated before use. Popular articles are not peer-reviewed.

  Popular Age
Who is the Author? Primarily journalists Researchers, Scholars and Professors
Who is the the targeted audience? The general public Students, scholars, and researchers
What is the purpose of the article? To inform the public and sell newspapers/magazines To advance understanding in a field of study
Are there citations? Not often Always
Are there ads? Most of the time Rarely
Are current events covered? Yes No - the peer review process takes time
Examples Time Magazine Journal of Mathematical Chemistry

 

Evaluating Webpages

If a resource you found is relevant to your topic….then ask the following questions:

  • Where does the information in the resource come from?
  • Does the information appear to be valid and well-researched?
  • Is there a list of references or works cited? (Don't forget to check the quality of these references as well using the criteria described here.)

Authority:

  • Who published the resource? Is it a university press, a reputable well-known publisher, a government agency, or the author (i.e., self-published)?
  • Who is the author and what are the author's credentials (educational background, past writing, experience) in this area?

If the resource is a web page, it is often difficult to determine who the author(s) or creator(s) are, let alone their credentials or qualifications. But try to find answers for the following questions.

  • Is the author identified? If so, are his/her credentials/qualifications and affiliations listed?
  • Is there contact information for the author (mailing address, phone number)? Remember that just an e-mail address without author name(s) and affiliations is not enough.
  • Does the URL contain “.edu” (for example, http://lib.murraystate.edu), “.gov”, “.com”, “.org”, or “.net”?

Bias:

  • What is the purpose of the resource (e.g., educational, commercial, entertainment, promotional)? If it is a web site, this information may be provided in a mission statement or an “About Us” page, which can help you determine if the site is intended to inform, explain, or persuade. Is the site trying to sell you something?
  • Is the information fact, opinion, or propaganda?
  • What is the author’s intention? Is the author's point of view objective and impartial?
  • If the resource is a web page, is there a sponsor or advertising on the page? If so, is this likely to influence the information?

Currency:

  • When was the resource published?
  • Is the resource current for your topic?
  • Are the references current?
  • If the resource is a web page, it should be updated and revised as the information changes. If there are hyperlinks or timely information, these need to be updated and revised. Are dates provided for when the information was written or when the page was last modified or updated? Are the links (if any) up-to-date?