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Botany 101: Information literacy introduction: Scholarly (Peer reviewed) vs. Popular

Evaluating Websites

How do I determine if a website is credible or not?                 

Anyone with Internet access can publish a website and disseminate information online.  When you are determining how or if you should use a specific website in your work, you should evaluate the website using the following criteria:


  • How recent is the information?
  • How recently has the website been updated?
  • Is the information current enough for your topic?


  • Can the data be verified by other sources?
  • Does the author have an obvious bias?


  • Is the author identified?
  • What are the author’s credentials?


  • Who is the site intended for?  Scholars?  Professionals?  Students? 


  • Does the site state its intended scope? 
  • Is it designed to cover an entire subject or to give detailed information on one aspect of the subject?

Relative Value

  • How does it compare to other sources of similar information? 
  • Are there other more accurate or complete sources?

Scholarly vs. Popular Resources

In academic research, it is important to learn how to distinguish between scholarly and popular (non-scholarly) sources.  While one can argue the value of both types of sources, the scholarly sources are the ones that are usually preferred when doing academic research.

The following is a table comparing the general features of these two types of sources:

Type of Source

Scholarly Sources

Popular Sources


In-Depth, Original Research

 Usually undergoes peer-review process (see Peer Review for more)

Current Events, Popular Topics, Interviews



Experts in the Field (e.g., professors, researchers, etc.)

Experts in the subject they are writing about.

Journalists or Freelance Writers

May or may not be subject experts in what they are writing about.

Writing Level

Technical language that assumes some level of college education.

Simple language

Works Cited

Almost always has some kind of Works Cited or Reference list to back up what they are writing.

Rarely documents sources used.


Journal of the American Medical Association
Pacific Science  

PC World
Honolulu Star-Advertiser