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OT 100S: Structural Foundations of Occupational Therapy

Penn State Berks Structural Foundations of Occupational Therapy Seminar - Kresse

Scholarly, Professional, & Popular Articles

Many college courses require students to use scholarly or professional/trade articles a sources.  Check out the worksheet below for a quick breakdown of the characteristics of these types of sources. 

How to Read & Use Scholarly Articles

Scholarly articles can be intimidating to read and dissect for your college level papers.  Use the links below for tips on where to find different pieces of information and how to best approach reading a lengthy peer reviewed, scholarly article.

Evaluating Websites

Class Activity


IF I APPLY, Source Evaluation Tool.   Often we seek information that confirms our own thoughts and feelings towards a topic. This is not research. Research and learning comes from finding sources that speak to the truth of a topic, no matter how much it hurts, or does not fit with your current ideas and beliefs.  Only by keeping personal biases in check can you begin to vet information for credibility. These steps will help you find sources that are credible and reliable in your research process.   IF I APPLY is a method for identifying bias, both personal and external, and then using this as a baseline for determining the credibility of a resource. Information is neither good nor bad. Resources, and information, have a time and place when they will be useful for a specific topic or need.    IF I APPLY is not meant to be used as a checklist, but rather as a tool to facilitate and guide critical thinking.Identify emotions attached to the topic.  Find unbiased reference sources that will provide a proper and informative overview of the topic.     Intellectual courage is needed to seek authoritative voices on the topic that may fall outside your comfort zone or thesis. Authority established.      Does the author have education, experience, and expertise in the field?  Purpose/Point of view.      Does the author have an agenda beyond education or information?  Publisher.       Does the publisher have an agenda?  List of sources (bibliography). Is the evidence reliable, sensible, and accessible? Year of publication. Does the date of publication affect the information?


Identifying emotions:

  • What are your honest opinions regarding the topic?
  • Have you addressed your internal biases?
  • Make an all-inclusive list of counter-opinions or counter-arguments.

Finding unbiased resources:

  • Conduct a general knowledge overview.
  • Search for information in : encyclopedias, wikis, dictionaries, etc.

Intellectual courage:

  • Identify credible materials for all of the viewpoints - yours and the additional you identified
  • Reject unsound arguments - have the courage to accept that not all viewpoints are valid
    • ​Validity and Invalidity, Soundness and Unsoundness and How do we show that an argument is invalid are two useful resources to help determine the validity of a viewpoint



  • Who is the author (may be individual or organization) and/or publisher?
  • What are the credentials and affiliation or sponsorship of any named individuals or organizations?
  • How objective, reliable, and authoritative are they?
  • Have they written other articles or books?
  • Is/Are the author(s) listed with contact information (street address, e-mail)?
  • Do they specialize in publishing certain topics or fields?

Purpose/Point of view of source

  • Does the author have an agenda beyond education or information?
  • What can be said about the content, context, style, structure, completeness and accuracy of the information provided by the source?
  • Are any conclusions offered? If so, based on what evidence and supported by what primary and secondary documentation?
  • What is implied by the content?
  • Are diverse perspectives represented?
  • Is the content relevant to your information needs?
  • Why was the information provided by the source published?
  • What are the perspectives, opinions, assumptions and biases of whoever is responsible for this information?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is anything being sold?


  • Does the publisher have an agenda?
  • When was the information published?
    • Publication date is generally located on the title page or on the reverse side of the title page (copyright date).
  • Is the information provided by the source in its original form or has it been revised to reflect changes in knowledge?
  • Has the publisher published other works?
  • Is this information timely and is it updated regularly?
  • Is the publisher scholarly (university press, scholarly associations)? Commercial? Government agency? Self (“vanity”) press?

List of resources

  • Where else can the information provided by the source be found?
  • Is this information authentic?
  • Is this information unique or has it been copied?

Year of publication

  • Is this information current? Can you find more current or relevant information?
  • Is the cited information current? Make sure work is not based on outdated research, statistics, data, etc.
  • Is the information routinely updated?

Phillips, K., Roles, E., & Thomas, S. IF I APPLY: a New Recipe for Critical Source Evaluation. The Critical Thinking about Sources Cookbook. Association of College and Research Libraries, Chicago, IL. 2020.