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CHEM 3001: Capstone 2

Evaluate Sources

Throughout the research process, you should be evaluating your sources to determine if they meet your research needs. Below are some guidelines to follow in the evaluation of your sources. These guidelines can be applied to books, articles, websites and any other resource you may be using.  

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Where is this source coming from?

Is my source a primary, secondary or tertiary source?

Go to Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Literature in the Sciences for more information.

Where is the source coming from: How to Determine if a journal is "good"

How do I know if a journal is important and respected in its field?

Most scholars and professors are familiar with the top journals in their fields but as a beginning researcher it is hard to know which journals are important.  To find respected journals in a field, try the following:

  • Look for journals from professional associations, for example: journals from the American Chemical Society. 
  • Ask your professor which journals are well respected in his or her field.  
  • Another criteria to use is a journal's impact factor.  For more about what impact factors are, see below.  

Impact Factor

Impact factor measures the number of articles cited from a journal in a particular year.  The assumption is that a journal which has many articles cited in other research is a journal in which important or highly valued research is being published.  

The impact factor is just one way to measure the importance of a journal and some scholars feel too much weight has been given to this measurement.  Use cautiously and in conjunction with other measurements.  

There are two algorithms for measuring impact Factor ISI's Impact Factor and the Eigenfactor.  Both can be found utilizing the Journal Citation Reports from Thomson Reuters in the Web of Science.    

For more on various impact factors, go to :  

Why use this source?

Further questions to consider:

  • Is this source cited frequently?  Is it an important paper?
  • How does this study relate to other studies you have found on the same topic?  

Structure of an Article/ Evaluation Tips

Most scholarly research articles follow the same structure. Below is a basic outline of this structure. Note that different articles may use different names for the sections, combine some sections, or separate other sections. Some sections may be larger in some articles and smaller in other articles. However, you will find roughly the same information, in the same order, in all articles. Knowing what to expect from each section of an article can help you read and understand it more easily.


  • summary of what is to come in the article
  • brief outline of the researchers' purpose, methods, and results


  • overview of the research/experiment--its purpose and importance
  • background information about the topic
  • brief summary of previous similar research
    • this sometimes appears in a separate section called "Literature Review"
  • Is this article extending existing research?  Proposing a new field of research? Does it contradict other existing research?


  • description of the procedures the researchers used
  • high level of detail to ensure that the experiment is reproducible
  • Did the researchers describe the experiment in enough detail to be reproducible?  Were the techniques used suitable?  


  • data collected during the research
  • usually comes in the form of tables, graphs, and charts
  • Were proper controls used? Were the findings validated through statistical analysis? Did the experiments done answer the question that the researchers set out to answer?  


  • meaning and implication of results
  • answer to research question/problem


  • summary of findings
  • comparisons to previous research
  • suggestions for future research and/or how the results could be useful
  • Do the conclusions make sense based on the data presented?  


  • citations for publications the researchers consulted during their research and writing


  • statement of funding sources
  • conflict of interest statement
  • acknowledgments