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Boatwright Memorial Library

FYS 100 (23): Literature of Animals: Choosing Sources

Think Like a Journalist

The basic rules for evaluating a source for quality are the same as the "5 W's" of journalism: Who, What, When, Where, and Why.

Who produced the document, image, video, sound file, etc. and what do you know about them, their credentials, their perspectives, and their motives?

What is the factual or emotional content of the source and does it reflect reality? Can you find corroborating evidence in other sources? Are any other sources cited?

When was it produced and does that time frame alter its potential usefulness or suggest contextual historical or social factors that should be considered?

Where was it published and does that publisher evaluate sources before publishing them?  Does the place of publication reflect on the competence or impartiality of the source? Does the publisher have policies regarding verification of facts, language, or cultural/political perspective you should be aware of?  Is this a re-publication and, if so, where was it originally published?

Why was the item produced and published?  To educate?  To entertain? To influence?  To sell something?  To promote the creator? To engage a community?


Characteristics of Scholarly & Popular Articles:

Popular Articles Scholarly Articles
  •  Are often written by journalists or professional writers for a general audience.
  • Use language easily understood by general readers.
  • Are often fairly short. They may also be more personal or anecdotal.
  • Rarely give full citations for sources.
  • Are written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars.
  • Use scholarly or technical language.
  •  Tend to be longer and reports the results of research conducted by the author.
  •  Include full citations for sources.
  •  Are often refereed or peer reviewed.

Scholarly vs. Popular

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