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ENVST 100N: Visions of Nature

What Type of Source is This?

For this assignment you are required to identify the type of source in the annotation. Here are some tips to correctly identify a source found in the library's databases or online.


Primary Research Article

  • These articles (1º) are very common in the library's databases. They relate original research done by the authors.
  • They might include a LITERATURE REVIEW that provides summaries of other research related to the topic, but the purpose of this section is to provide perspective/background.
  • Look at the ABSTRACT of the article. Does it contain contain phrases like "In this research WE (or the authors)...." or other words that attribute the research presented to the article authors?


Review Article

  • Review articles (2º) synthesize or SUMMARIZE the original research on a particular topic. Their purpose to is draw any overall conclusion on a topic, identify trends related to a topic, or point out areas that need further study. 
  • The authors of these articles do not carrying out the original research themselves, but they do use databases and other resources to search for published articles. Look for places where the authors describe their search strategies - "we reviewed X databases, narrowing the results to the last 5 years."
  • Their methods or results sections may COMPARE the findings of multiple articles at once, instead of showing new research.
  • In the ABSTRACT look for wording where they explain the limits of their review - "in this article we at articles on X in 5 of the leading journals of the discipline."


Book or Book Chapter

  • Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between a journal article or a book chapter in the library databases, as they are both part of a larger whole.
  • Book chapters will contain information related to that chapter's author, but they also may include the name of the EDITOR who was in charge of pulling together and organizing all the independent chapters. Journal articles typically do not include information related to the editor of the journal.
  • Book and book chapters will also include information on the CITY and the PUBLISHER in addition to the PUBLICATION YEAR.
  • Journal articles will not include a city of publication, nor the name of the publisher. Instead they will often have a VOLUME or ISSUE number, and they will often include the MONTH or SEASON (e.g. Spring), along with the year.


Textbook, Encyclopedia, or other Tertiary Articles

  • These types of sources (3º) are great for background information related to a topic. They often focus on the larger scope of an issue, or take time to compare it to other related issues.
  • They might contain a section on RELATED SOURCES or FURTHER READING that can be a helpful way to get you started.
  • They also may take the time to define and discuss common methodologies or terminology related to the topic.


How to Evaluate a Source

Below are some tips on evaluating a source, and deciding whether it is appropriate to your information need.

Looking at the Source and its Content

  • Is this type of source acceptable for your assignment? 
  • What is the date of the source? Is its findings still relevant today? Or has information changed?
  • Does the information provided make sense? Can you follow along with the argument? 
  • Does it cite its own sources correctly? Does it provide a work cited page?
  • How will this source relate to your own argument? Can you use it to support or provide an alternative to your argument?


Looking Outside Your Source

  • What do you know about who produced this source? What is their reputation? Are they know for any specific POV or Bias?
    • This can refer to the publisher, journal/magazine/newspaper, website, etc.
    • Have a bias isn't necessarily a negative attribute, but knowing that will help you identify how much support it will provide your argument.
  • What do you know about the author? What is their background or credentials?
    • Are they actually experts in the discipline related to your topic?
    • What else have the published? 
  • What do others say about the information in your source? Did they support the content, or call it into question?
    • Is what you source says consistent with other sources you've found? Outlying information might require addition verification.


*There is no silver bullet that can say whether a source is "good" or not. But, the more informed you are about the source, the more confident you can be.