Evaluating Sources: Articles

What makes books, articles, and other sources useful and how to evaluate them.
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Why Use Articles?

 Articles appear in publications called magazines, journals, periodicals, and newspapers.

Use articles to find:

  • The most recent research on a topic
  • Coverage of very narrow (or specific) topics
  • Coverage of current events
  • Contemporary accounts of past events and research

Types of Publications


Periodicals, journals, magazines fall into 'categories' determined by their overall purpose.

  • Popular:
    Written for general public; authors and editors usually not experts in subject field; purpose is to provide current, societal/cultural news and discussion.
  • News Article:
    Written or produced for general public; authors are usually journalists familiar with the local area and/or the topic. The purpose is to provide very current information on "what, where, why and how"; format may be online news sites or newspapers, radio or TV.
  • Trade:
    Written for individuals in a specific career/job or with a specific interest/hobby.  Authors are generally persons working in the field/hobby or journalists with specialized knowledge.  Articles discuss current issues but are not reports of research.
  • Scholarly:
    Written for, and authored by, researchers, educators, students. Articles are reports of original research or other scholarly discussions. The publication title often may include words such as:  journal, review, or quarterly.

Evaluating Articles

Use critical thinking skills when deciding whether an article is appropriate to use.

Consider the following:

    • Check the Date: Is the information current or timely for your topic?
    • Read the Abstract: This usually provides a summary of the article.
    • Scan the Headings & Subheadings: These will provide an outline of the work.
    • Read the Conclusion: The last few paragraphs in a journal or magazine article often restate the main argument, important questions and major findings.

    • Purpose: Is the intent to inform, entertain, persuade or educate?
    • Author: Does the author have expertise on the topic?
    • Objectivity: Are various sides or points-of-view represented? 
    • Bibliography: Are the author's sources of information cited completely?


Criteria list taken in whole from:
Howard, Rebecca Moore. Writing Matters: A Handbook for Writing & Research. Customized for Marquette University. New York: McGraw Hill, 2010. Print.

Getting the Articles

Here's a short video showing how Find it @ MU works. (About 4 minutes long.)

Two common ways to find out if the Libraries have access to the articles you need:

1) You are searching in an article database, but it doesn't have the full-text:  

Click on  Findit@MU button in the article citation. Another window / tab opens with two possible options:

  • Links indicating Find it @MU may have located one or more sources for full text of the article. Click on the links and follow the trail to the article. 
  • Links to search MARQCAT by the journal title or its ISSN number. The journal may be available in print or electronically through a source not searchable by Find it @MU.

2) You already have a specific citation and aren't currently searching in a database:

  • Search for the journal title in MARQCAT, the library catalog;
  • Do not search the title or author of the article, MARQCAT doesn't contain article level information.

The MARQCAT record will indicate what years we have in print and/or online, providing call number locations for the print and links to the e-journal.  Once at the e-journal, navigate to the volume, issue and page that you need.


Didn't find the article/journal using Find it @MU or MARQCAT?  Request the article through Interlibrary Loan (ILL) by clicking on the link at the bottom of the Find it @MU window or tab.  Learn more about ILL here.

Ever wonder why the full-text isn't there?  Watch this short video about the Business of Information.