Contemporary Canadian Government & Politics:
A Practical Research Guide

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4. Finding and Evaluating Substantive Information
Finding Information Evaluating Information

Evaluating Information: Articles

Books Internet Sites Authors Writing Annotations/Reviews

When searching for journal or newspaper articles to use in a research paper the indexes used and the publications in which the articles appear can provide you with the first clues for evaluation. Here are some tips on evaluating journals, journal and newspaper articles:


Back to the Top Newspaper Articles
Journals and Journal Articles:
Select a journal index that covers scholarly journals. Some general indexes allow you to limit your search to academic, scholarly, or peer reviewed/refereed articles (article manuscripts are screened by experts in the field before publication).

To Evaluate Journals:

The same criteria apply as for books. See the TACO Checklist. Other questions to ask: What kind of journal is it? Is it a scholarly journal? If not, is it appropriate for your research?

For help in answering these questions you can:

1. Check it against the list of key journals for Canadian government and politics in Part 4: Finding Information: Scholarly Research in Academic Journals and the list of key journals in the Special Topics pages, if applicable.

2. Look the journal title up in a directory of periodicals:

Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1932 . 3-4 vols. Annual.
Journals are listed by subject with the publisher's address, a statement on the type of publication it is, if it is refereed, and a list of the indexes that cover it. Intended to be comprehensive.
Magazines for Libraries. New York: R.R. Bowker, 1969 -- . Irregular.
Not comprehensive, but lists and describes only "the best and most useful" magazines and journals for school, public, and university libraries. It indicates whether the intended audience is academic or the general population, and has a descriptive and evaluative review of each journal. Note: Emphasis is on U.S. journals.
3. Evaluate the journal yourself:

Read the inside cover: the preface, introduction, etc. or the online equivalent (most journals, whether available online or not, will have a publisher's home page describing the journal). There should be some information on who the publishers are and the purpose of the journal. Is there an editorial board? Are articles refereed? How is the journal funded? Note the style and format of the articles. Some will have a mix of articles including opinion pieces and scholarly articles, so each article you use has to be evaluated individually as well.

To Evaluate Articles:

The TACO Checklist given under Evaluating Books applies for articles as well. Some tips specific to articles:

Topic:
Academic articles frequently have an abstract describing the article, an introduction, and a conclusion. When available, read these carefully. When using a periodical index to find articles, note the subject headings or indexing terms assigned to the article. The number of pages and the "article type" description can help in deciding if the article will treat the subject in enough depth.
Authority:
In academic articles the author's affiliation and/or position is usually given at the beginning or the end of the article. You can do a quick search by the author's name to see what, if any, other articles the author wrote. You can check a citation index to see if the author has been cited frequently by others, or check the sources listed in Evaluating Information: Authors.
Currency:
Be aware of the coverage dates of the periodical index you use. You may have to update the search (or back-date it) using other tools.
Objectivity:
Look for bias-free language, properly cited sources especially for facts and questionable statements, and all other items listed for evaluating books, but apply these to the journal as well as the article. Journals usually only publish articles that suit their purpose.
Other Tips:
Distinguishing Scholarly Journals from Other Periodicals. By Michael Engle. Cornell University Library. http://www.library.cornell.edu/okuref/research/skill20.html
Back to the Top Journal Articles
Newspaper Articles:
Note that news articles usually do not include sources for the facts, statements or statistics supplied and therefore cannot be relied upon for most academic purposes without further research.

Online news services such as the newswires and news web sites report on events as they are happening without much or any editing, fact-checking or corroboration. More care is generally taken with printed newspapers. Tips on evaluating newspaper articles:

1. Get information about the newspaper:

Gale Directory of Publications and Broadcast Media. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1990 - . Annual.
This directory lists U.S. and Canadian newspapers, news magazines and other news media with a brief note on the type of paper it is, the publisher and editor, address and web site URL, circulation figures, etc.
2. Make sure you are aware of the type of article it is (opinion piece, editorial, letter to the editor, humour column, news report, etc.) and use it accordingly.

3. Get information on the journalist/author: See the byline or the statement at the end of the article, if any, search the paper's web site, or follow the tips given in Evaluating Information: Authors.
Books Internet Sites Authors Writing Annotations/Reviews
Finding Information Evaluating Information
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Primary Sources   Special Topics   Citing Sources   Ask Your Librarian!   Detailed Table of Contents

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