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SOAN 101: Introduction to Sociology

Scholarly, Peer Reviewed, Resources Defined

What is peer review?
Your professors will often ask you to find, evaluate and use sources that are peer-reviewed or refereed.  Peer review is a process through which submitted journal articles or books are evaluated by individuals with expertise in the subject area or discipline, who then make recommendations to the editor as to whether or not to publish the material.  Peer review is used in the publication of both articles in scholarly journals and scholarly books (called monographs).  An article or book published after peer review typically has received extensive critiques and has undergone at least one major revision before reaching publication.

What is a scholarly journal?
A scholarly journal is devoted to a specific subject area, topic or theme, and publishes peer-reviewed articles, as well as a variety of non-peer-reviewed content, including book reviews and commentaries, that would be of interest to scholars and students in the discipline.

What is a monograph?
A monograph is a scholarly book on a tightly focused topic.  A monograph makes an argument using both primary and secondary sources.  Before publication, it undergoes a lengthy peer review and revision process.  Monographs typically are published by university or other non-profit presses, although some for-profit publishers also concentrate on academic publishing.

Types of Sources: Popular and Scholarly

Scholarly sources present sophisticated, researched arguments using both primary and secondary sources and are written by experts. Journals are examples of scholarly sources.

Popular sources aim to inform or entertain and are intended for a general, non-specialized audience.  In academic writing, popular sources most often are analyzed as primary sources. Magazines are examples of  popular sources.

To determine the difference between these two types of sources, ask yourself:

  • Who reads them?
  • Who writes them?
  • Who decides what get published in them?
  • What's in them?
  • What do they look like?
  • When are they available?
  • What can you use them for?


Types of Sources: Primary, Secondary, Tertiary

For your research assignments, professors may request that you use different types of sources, including primary, secondary, and tertiary sources.

Primary sources are the raw materials of research. They provide firsthand access to words, images, or objects created directly by the persons involved in the activity or event. The value of primary sources is that they allow the researcher to get as close as possible to the original work. It is important to note that the types of information that can be considered primary sources may vary depending on the subject discipline, and also on how you are using the material. Time is also a defining element.

Primary Source Examples: works of art, music, fiction or poetry, statistics, original scientific research, letters, diaries, and interviews.

Secondary sources discuss, report on, or provide commentary about primary sources. They are important to researchers as they offer an interpretation of information gathered from primary sources.

Secondary Source Examples: journal, magazine & newspaper articles, biographies, monographs.

Tertiary sources  present summaries, condense, or collect information from primary and/or secondary sources. They can be a good place to look up facts, get a general overview of a subject, or locate primary and secondary sources.

Tertiary Source Examples: encyclopedias, dictionaries, textbooks, handbooks, timelines, bibliographies.



The CAARP Test

The CAARP Test

The CAARP Test is a list of questions to help you evaluate the information you find. Different criteria will be more or less important depending on your situation or need.  Many of these questions can be applied to books, journal articles, news stories and/or web sites.

Currency: the timeliness of the information

  • When was the information published or posted?
  • Has the information been revised or updated?
  • Is the information current, or out-of date, for your topic or academic discipline?
  • Are all of the links functional?

Authority: the source of the information

  • Who is the author/publisher/source/sponsor?
  • Are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations given?
  • What are the author's credentials or organizational affiliations?
  • What are the author's qualifications to write on the topic?
  • Is there contact information, such as a publisher or e-mail address?
  • Does the URL reveal anything about the author or source?
    examples: .com (commercial); .edu (educational); .gov (U.S. government); .org (nonprofit organization); or .net (network)

Accuracy: the reliability, truthfulness or plausibility of the information

  • Where does the information come from?
  • Is the information supported by evidence?
  • Is there a bibliography of consulted sources and/or notes?
  • Has the information been reviewed or refereed?

Relevance: the importance of the information for your needs

  • Does the information relate to your topic?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Is the information at an appropriate level (i.e. not too elementary or advanced for your needs)?
  • Have you looked at a variety of sources before determining this is one you will use?

Purpose: the reason the information exists

  • What is the purpose of the information? to inform? teach? sell? entertain? persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their intentions or purpose clear?
  • Is the information fact? argument? opinion? propaganda?
  • Does the point of view appear objective and impartial?
  • Are there political, ideological, cultural, religious, institutional, or personal biases?

Adapted from CSU Chico