Skip to Main Content

Biology 100: Evaluation & Peer Review

Subject Guide

Profile Photo
Mike Goates
(801) 422-6012
Subjects: Geology, Life Sciences

Library Workshop Handout

Evaluating Sources

How to Evaluate an Information Source

There are a number of criteria to consider as you evaluate a source of information.  Unfortunately, there's not an easy checklist or form to follow.  Consider all of the criteria below, as a whole.  The more criteria your source meets favorably, the more likely it's reliable. 

"Quick Look" Criteria

You don't have to read the information content to look at these criteria.

  • Presence and authority of an author
  • Presence and authority of sponsoring organization or publisher
  • Currency
  • Cited sources
    • Presence
    • Number
    • Authority
  • Type of venue
    • Scholarly
    • Popular

Content Analysis Criteria

Read the content of the source to determine these criteria.

  • Intended audience
  • Intended purpose
    • To sell versus to inform
  • Coverage
    • Depth
    • Both sides of a controversial issue
  • Treatment and tone
    • Calm and detached versus emotion-arousing
  • Confirmation from other sources


Primary resources --peer reviewed articles written by authors who actually performed an original experiment or are reporting their field observations, i.e., of organisms or medical patients.

Secondary resources --peer reviewed articles written by authors who summarize or discuss trends in the primary literature.  In the life sciences, these are called "review" articles or "reviews."

Tertiary resources --non-peer reviewed articles, books, newspaper articles, encyclopedia entries, etc.. 

Peer review--process by which articles are submitted to experts in the scientific discipline for comments and criticism before publication in a scholarly journal. Peer reviewed journals are also called "refereed."

Have a Question? Get Help Here

Science & Engineering Help Desk

Mon - Thurs: 8 am - 9 pm
Fri: 8 am - 6 pm
Sat: 10 am - 6 pm
(801) 422-2987
Chat loading...

Journal Evaluation Tools

Citation Data

Citation data is a numerical tool for evaluation of individual articles.  In general, the more an article is cited in the reference lists of other articles, the more impact the article has had on the scientific community.  Look for the "Times Cited" information under each article in Web of Science.  Sort your results by "Times Cited" using the drop down menu at the top right to get a feel for the most important papers on your topic.