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MRKG 1311 SO Sheetz: Evaluating Sources

Course guide created for MRKG 1311 SO, Jennifer Sheetz, Instructor.

Evaluate Sources

There are several clues to look for when determining whether a book is scholarly:

Publisher: Who is the publisher? Do they specialize in this field? Is it published by a University Press (e.g., Oxford University Press, Indiana University Press)? Take a look at the publisher’s website if you are unsure of their focus.

Bias: Does the publisher have a religious or political affiliation? Consider how this affiliation might affect the scholarship and/or content of the book.

Authority: Who is the author? Do they have credentials that give them authority on the subject? Are they recognized by other scholars in the field?

Cited Sources: Scholarly books will have cited references or a bibliography. Most books written for general audiences will not. Consider the quality of the sources: look for inclusion of journal articles, primary sources, and other scholarly books by experts in the field.

Content: Consider accuracy, bias, audience appropriateness, graphics/charts/illustrations. Look for books that have clear structure and organization, such as a preface, introduction, table of contents, conclusion, and index.

Still not sure? Talk to your instructor or a librarian.


Courtesy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library at SJSU

How do I know if a resource is scholarly (also called peer-reviewed)?

Scholarly Sources:

  • are often written by professors, researchers, and experts in the field with advanced degrees
  • are written for other scholars, professionals, and students
  • have a list of references 
  • use technical language of the field
  • often provide research findings, statistics, and literature reviews

Here is an explanation and short video on how to limit to these types of resources when searching the Library homepage.


What about Popular sources, like magazines?

Popular Sources:

  • are for the general population
  • avoid technical terminology and use easy-to-understand language
  • usually do not have bibliographies or references
  • often written by staff writers with little specialized knowledge
  • are written for entertainment and general knowledge

Information found on the Internet is not filtered for quality.  It is up to you to evaluate websites using the CRAP test:

  • How recent is the information?
  • Is it current enough for your topic?
  • When was the site last updated?
  • What kind of information is included in the resource?
  • Is content of the resource primarily opinion?
  • Does the creator provide references?
  • Who are the authors or creators?
  • What are their credentials?
  • Who is the publisher or sponsor?
  • Are they reputable?
  • What is the publisher’s interest?
  • Does the site have advertisements?
Purpose/Point of View
  • Is this fact or opinion?
  • Is it biased?
  • Are they trying to sell you something?