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Evaluating Information

Primary and Secondary Sources

ProQuest Research Companion Definitions:

A primary source is original information. It could be a letter, a diary entry, a piece of legislation, a literary text like a poem or a novel, an eyewitness account, data from a scientific study, a classified ad, or any number of other things.

A secondary source is an interpretation, analysis, commentary, riff, or basically anything on, of, or about a primary source. Examples of secondary sources include an analysis of a political speech, a critique of an original scientific study, and an examination of the social attitudes expressed in a collection of tweets.

Primary Source Examples                                                                Secondary Sources Examples

               Art                                                                                                        Dictionaries

               Autobiographies                                                                                   Biographies                                                    

              Diaries                                                                                                   Encyclopedias                                                            

              Eyewitness Accounts                                                                            Textbooks

              Government Documents                                                                      Published books

              Interviews                                                                                             Articles that analyze or discuss ideas







Scholarly Sources

Articles that come from scholarly journals are authoritative and are some of the most helpful sources that can help you support the argument that you are making. The same is true of scholarly books about being an authoritative sources. Both go through a peer review process before they are available for publication, meaning that people who are familiar with the subject review the written material. The library is the best place to find good scholarly journals and books in their collections.


The web is an easy and quick place to go to search for information. You can quickly type in search terms and come up with many results. When searching the web it is especially important to see where th information is coming from, who has written the information, and if the information is current. Websites are good for primary sources but many lack the authority needed when doing scholarly research.

Non-Scholarly Periodicals and Books

When using information from non-scholarly publication it is very important to make sure that the information can be used in your research and to follow the criteria for evaluating information. The video talks about how the information in non-scholarly periodicals can give you information to support your argument but it is important to know where the information is coming from and the purpose the author has written that article.In the case of books the video states that, "non-scholarly books aren't written by scholars, don't undergo rigorous peer review, and are published to make money. The information in them won't be as authoritative as the information you'd find in scholarly books, and, as a general rule, non-scholarly books won't give you support for your argument."

Peer Reviewed

According to ProQuest Research Companion, one of the best ways of minimizing bias and incompetence is peer review. This is the process in which experts review and provide feedback on drafts of articles and books before they are published.

Learn about what Peer review is and the process for peer reviewed information from Elsevier.


Research Companion

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