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Research Process: Evaluating Resources

Tips from topic selection to evaluating sources to aid in the research process

Evaluation Guides

Differences between Magazines and Journals

Media Bias Chart

Graphic of new publications titles charted according to political viewpoint and level of accuracy

Primary and Secondary sources

A primary source is an original document containing firsthand information about a topic. Common examples of a primary source are diaries, interviews, letters, photographs and newspaper articles written at the time of the event.

A secondary source contains commentary on or discussion about a primary source. The most important feature of secondary sources is that they offer an interpretation of information gathered from primary sources. Common examples of a secondary source are  biographies, dissertations, journal articles, monographs, an encyclopedia entry and  textbooks.

For example: When writing about a philosophical treatise you would want to read the original text (Primary Document), then read what experts in field have written about it (Secondary Documents) and develop your own analysis.

Peer Review

Prior to publishing a book or article that is considered scholarly, the research needs to be reviewed by one or more experts in the field. They may recommend it be published, give suggestions to strengthen the piece, or recommend that it not be published. You can limit your search to peer reviewed journals by checking the filter box in the library catalog and most databases.

Check out this great video from Steely Library NKU:

Impact Factor

According to the 2014 Journal Citation Reports Science Edition (Thomson Reuters, 2014). Its Impact Factor is 14.547. Full-text content on the publisher's site is accessible from January, 2010 to present. 

The impact factor of a journal is calculated by dividing the number of citations in a calendar year to the source items published in that journal during the previous two years. It is an independent measure calculated by Thomson Reuters. 

For information on how to find an article's impact factor, check out this video: