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POL440 -- Seminar in U.S. Foreign Policy: Drone War and Cybersecurity: Scholarly vs. Popular

Evaluating Information Sources

When evaluating information sources, ask yourself the following questions:

Authority: Who is the Author? Are they qualified or an expert in their field? Is there contact information for websites?

Accuracy: Can the facts be double checked against other sources? Are there good references/citations or does it link to other reputable resources (in the case of internet resources)?

Currency: Is the information in the resources current and fresh? Is it more the 5 years old? Is it considered current for its field?

Objectivity: Is the resource free of bias or opinion? Is the author trying to sell an idea, product or point of view? Is the information factual and objective rather than subjective?

Scholarly vs. Popular


Scholarly Journal

Popular Magazine


Articles are usually 10 pages or more in length; providing in-depth analysis of topics

Shorter articles (less than 10 pages), providing broader overview of topics

Written by

Author usually an expert or specialist in the field, name and credentials always provided

Author usually a journalist or a staff writer, name and credentials often not provided

Language/Written for

Written in technical language for professors, researchers, students of the field

Written at high school level for the general public


Original research results and scholarship

Popular topics and current events


Supposed to present objective/neutral viewpoint;

May reflect the editorial bias/slant of the magazine


Usually quarterly

Usually weekly


Articles usually structured, may include: abstract, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography

Articles do not necessarily follow a specific format or structure

Special Features

Illustrations that support the text, such as, tables of statistics, graphs, diagrams, maps, or photographs

Illustrations with glossy paper or color photographs


Serious and sober, with few colors and few or no advertisements

Glossy, with pictures and advertisements


Articles usually reviewed and critically evaluated by a board of experts in the field (known as refereed or peer-reviewed)

Articles are not reviewed by experts in the field, but by editors on staff

References Cited

Usually includes a bibliography and/or footnotes

Usually has no bibliography or footnotes



Social Science Quarterly

American Political Science Review




Sports Illustrated

Scientific American