Skip to main content

Library Hours

Library CLOSED until further notice

View entire Academic Year.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Limited Access

Beginning Monday, March 23, Hoover Library will be CLOSED until further notice. Virtual reference services (use the "ASK US" or "CHAT" button) will be available from 1 PM - 9 PM Sunday, 9 AM - 9 PM Monday-Thursday, and 9 AM - 4 PM Friday. Hours are subject to change at any time. Please see our Hours page for current building availability. For more information, see the McDaniel College COVID-19 Information Page
Faculty: Please see our COVID-19 Library Access
Students: Please see our COVID-19 Student Access page.

CUR 557 - Capstone Experience Development: Evaluating Sources

What Type of Source Is It?

The first step in evaluating your sources is knowing the different types of sources you are finding and considering using. Below are the types of sources you should be familiar with during your research process.

Scholarly vs. Trade vs. Popular Sources

Scholarly publication:

  • A collection of articles usually published by a professional association, such as the American Sociological Association.
  • Written by an expert in a specific field.
  • Will have proper citations and references.
  • is subject to the peer-review process in which the manuscript is reviewed by many experts in the field and revised by reviewers and editor(s) before it is accepted for publication.


Peer-reviewed or refereed journal:

  • Journals that have been submitted to and approved by a field of experts or an editorial board in a particular discipline. 
  • How can you tell if it's peer-reviewed?
  • If there is an option on the database you're using to limit or filter your results to only peer-reviewed articles, that is the easiest way.
  • If such an option is not available, look up the journal and its publisher. Their site should have this information. 
  • If you are still not sure, ask a librarian! We can help you figure it out.

Trade publication:

  • Typically written by an expert in a specific industry or profession.
  • Intended for audience of others in that specific industry or profession.
  • Unlike scholarly sources, these sources usually do not contain original research and instead tend to be more practical.


Popular publication/magazine:

  • Covers current events, general interest topics, and news stories.

  • Written by a journalist or staff writer.

  • Intended for a general audience.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary sources:

  • Convey first-hand experience of the event or time period you’re studying.

Secondary sources: 

  • Convey the experiences of others, or “second-hand” information.
  • They often synthesize a collection of primary sources.

What this means in the social sciences:

Primary (Research articles):
  • Original scientific research; experiment or study conducted by author; actual rather than interpretive.
  • Clues within the article:
  • Read the abstract, and look for phrases such as "we tested" or "we measured."
  • Contains methods, results, and discussion sections.
  • Charts, statistical tables, etc.

Secondary (Review articles):
  • Compilation, discussion, analysis, or criticism of scientific research by others.
  • Analyzes and interprets.

Guide to Evaluating Sources

It's important to remember there's a human at the other end of every source. You need to be a critic when deciding what sources will be useful for you. Keep in mind that this guide below is just that--a guide. Not every source is going to fit perfectly in every category, but it's important to be aware of every source's flaws and to move forward accordingly. If you're still not sure if a source will work for your needs, ask your instructor or a librarian.