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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

Music 461: Vocal Pedagogy

For Dr. Nicole Sonbert

Music Databases

Music Education Databases

Distinguishing Scholarly Articles

Terminology for this type of source:

  • Peer-reviewed journals -- this means that the articles were critiqued by the author's peers, or other experts on the issue the article is about
  • Refereed journals -- the same definition as peer-reviewed journals
  • or just journals -- many scholarly journals have the phrase Journal of in the title, so this becomes the shorthand name for scholarly information published in periodicals.

So how do you know if a source is a scholarly article?

Each database is a bit different in how they label peer-reviewed journals. 

  • RILM = Periodical - it mixes peer-reviewed journals and magazines, so need to determine yourself if it is scholarly

But it isn't as simple as clicking the limiter, because this limits the source to a scholarly journal, but not the individual articles. Scholarly journals occasionally publish news articles or editorials. Therefore you need to evaluate the specific article to see if it is scholarly.

1. Is there a bibliography or list of references?

If the article does not include a literature review of other research done on the topic, as well as listing the sources the author(s) used, it is not scholarly.

All scholarly information "stands on the shoulders of giants." Sir Isaac Newton said that,and it's as true now as it was back in Newton's time. (Google Scholar uses this phrase as their motto.) Scholarly knowledge builds on what other scholars have stated.

2. Is it lengthy?

While there are exceptions, most scholarly articles are quite lengthy -- 10 to 30 pages long. (Some scientific and medical journal articles are shorter, such as 3 to 5 pages, if they are writing up the results of a concise study they did.)

3. Is the article based on original research, or an in-depth analysis of an issue?

As you become more familiar with college-level research, you will soon learn to spot scholarly articles by the abstracts or summaries very, very quickly! Most of the time the abstract states the research question, the methodology of the study, and the results.

Scholarly articles come in two main flavors -- research articles and review articles.

Research articles -- original research and are writing up their findings, or original, deep analysis of the issue 

Review articles -- the author(s) are critically reviewing other people's original research to synthesize what is known about the issue. These articles are extremely useful to understanding your topic, and they will have done a lot of the legwork for you! The articles will contain summaries of all the key research done within whatever timeframe, and you have a detailed literature review you can use to track down the original research.


Evaluating Sources

Questions to Ask Yourself & Issues to Consider

The questions to answer for evaluating any source of information via the WHY Method are critical in determining the credibility and relevance of the source.

Who was the author?

Most credible sources are by academics with graduate degrees in the field, or journalists, or the author has professional expertise in the field. Though it's possible you will find corporate authors, especially with government information or non-profits.

How was it edited?

You're looking for peer-reviewed or professionally edited sources.

whY was this published?

The scholarly sources will fall under the higher education category, but quality sources could fall in commercial, non-profit, or government.

Other Questions & Issues to Consider

As your examining the sources for answers to the WHY Method, don't limit yourself to what the source says about itself. Realistically, anyone can say anything they want about themselves. What's important is what others think. 

  • Google the name of the person or organization. See what others are saying about them. For organizations, if a Wikipedia entry doesn't pop up, it's clearly not an important organization.
  • Use NewsGuard. This is a free extension on Microsoft Edge. They offer detailed information on over 8,000 news sites and organizations. See below for how to add NewsGuard to your laptop.

Date - When was it written?

How important this criterion is depends on your topic. The harder part for some websites is locating a date. If it is a credible news organization, the date will be prominent.

Length & Comprehensiveness - How complete and balanced is the information?

Some sources will be relevant and useful, but do not give the reader a complete picture of the issue and ramifications, such as a blog post that is slanted to a particular perspective. The more comprehensive sources (and therefore the lengthiest!) will be especially useful at the beginning of your research, when you are still absorbing as much as possible about your issue.

But just because a source is not balanced does not mean it would not be useful. It just means you need to find sources with other viewpoints as well.

Evidence - What evidence does the source use to back up assertions? Is the information sound? How does it compare with other sources?

This is the most important criterion to judge your source. But it is the one that takes the most time, because you have to know enough about your issue to judge the soundness.

Adding NewsGuard to Web Searches

NewsGuard thoroughly evaluates over 8,000 online news sites. Use Microsoft Edge browser and download the extension for free. (Otherwise it's a subscription service, $4.95/month.) Use it on laptops. (NewsGuard claims it will work on the app version on mobile devices, but it isn't in the settings for Apple iOS.)

Adding NewsGuard to Microsoft Edge

Within Microsoft Edge, click on Microsoft Edge in the toolbar, then Microsoft Edge Extensions. Search newsguard and click to add it.

When you click the Get button, it prompts you to create an account in NewsGuard. Click the Sign In button, top right corner, and either create an account or sign in with an existing Apple, Facebook, or Google account.

Once you've created a Newsguard account, it appears to want a credit card for the subscription. Ignore that, scroll down to the bottom, and it says Not ready yet? Maybe later. Click the Maybe later link, and it will add the extension.

Using NewsGuard

Once you have NewsGuard installed, you'll see a blue icon with 0-100% to the results list in Google, or at the top next to the URL when you are on a site that NewsGuard has evaluated. The bigger the percentage, the higher the credibility score. Hover over the icon to bring up a short evaluation of how well it follows journalistic standards. Click on See the full Nutrition Label to view a detailed analysis, with references. (You may also run into a gray icon for platforms like YouTube, or an orange icon for satirical sites like The Onion.)

results of hovering over the Newsguard icon, previewing the full nutrition label