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Identifying Information Sources Online: Articles

Help with determining what type of source you've found online

Scholarly Journal Articles

Scholarly journal articles are also known as peer-reviewed journal articles or academic journal articles, depending on who you are talking with and/or what database you are searching in. The easiest way to tell if you have found a scholarly journal article is fi you find it through one of the library's databases, as most allow you to check for peer-review status by clicking on the title. 

However, if you find an article online, you'll have to do a bit more digging to see if it is peer-reviewed/scholarly or not. 

First you need to determine if it is a journal article: 

Can you find two titles on the source? 

  • Articles always have two titles: Journal Title and Article Title. You should be able to find both or you are not looking at a journal article. 

Can you find the names of the author(s)?

  • Scholarly articles always list the name of the author(s) on the article. You should be able to find the author(s)' names. 

Can you find volume and issue numbers?

  • Articles are parts of journals and the journals have volume and issue numbers. 

Can you find a doi?

  • Not all scholarly journal articles have a doi, but if it does it is a good chance that you are looking at a scholarly journal article if it also meets the other criteria

Can you find the date of publication?

  • You should be able to find the year of publication on the article. All journals include the year of publication and some may include the month and/or season (ex. Fall/Winter).

image of scholarly journal article

Now that you've determined that you have a journal article, it is time to check to see if it is peer reviewed:

  • Easiest way to determine peer reivew status is to searchi in the library databases. If you are in many of the article databases available through the CSUEB library, you can limit your searching to show only peer-reviwed/scholarly/academic articles. Also, many databases have the journal title hyperlinked so you can click it to get information about the journal, including if it is peer reviewed. 
  • Next easiest way to check for peer-review (aka scholarly) status of your journal article is to do a search for the journal's homepage. 
  • When you are on the journal's homepage, look for an "About the Journal" page or something similar. This will give you information about the journal including the peer-review process, if there is one. 
  • When in doubt, ask a librarian. 

Newspaper Articles

Newspaper articles are super-easy to identify when they are in print, but can be a bit harder to identify online, especially with no standard format for presenting information. However, it is nice that many newspapers identify themselves as such online. Below are some ways to check if you are looking at a newspaper article. 

Can you find the About Us page?

  • The About Us page should tell you whether you are reading a newspaper or not. Some papers, like The New York Times, are well-known as newspapers and this makes the articles from their websites easy to identify. Other times, you'll need to check the About Us page to determine if you are reading a newspaper article.

Can you find two titles? 

  • Newspaper articles, like other articles, have two titles: the title of the article and the title of the newspaper. 

Can you find the date of publication? 

  • Newspaper articles should always be dated and you should be able to find the date of publication on the article. Often newspapers are printed daily, but some are printed weekly. 

Do you see sections/headings with different titles?

  • Many online newspapers still use the traditionally organization online and separate their articles into sections such as: news, sports, weather, culture, fashion, etc. If you see those headings, you may be on a newspaper. 

As always, when in doubt about identifying a source, ask a librarian. 

Image of Newspaper Article

Magazine Articles

Magazine articles are articles in periodicals that are not peer-reviewed. They encompass anything from weekly gossip magazines, to trade magazines of professional organizations, to popular science magazines. 

The first step is to determine if you are looking at a magazine article: 

Can you find two titles on the source? 

  • Articles always have two titles: MagazineTitle and Article Title. You should be able to find both or you are not looking at an article. 

Can you find the names of the author(s)?

  • Articles often list the name of the author(s) on the article, but not always.

Can you find volume and issue numbers?

  • Many magazines have volume and issue numbers, but not all. However if you find one with a volume and issue number, it is a good sign that you have an article of some variety.

Can you find the date of publication?

  • Magazines will list the date of publication. Often there will be a month or even a day listed along with the year. Magazines are sometimes published more frequently than scholarly journals. 

Magazine article image

You've probably noticed that these are the same steps you use to determine if you have a scholarly article or not. It's true, but the last thing you want to do is see if the article is peer-reviewed or not. Magazine articles are not peer reviewed.

  • Find the magazine's homepage online and check the About Us section. If it doesn't say it is peer-reviewed, you are most likely reading a magazine article. 
  • Magazine articles can be used as primary sources, depending on your research topic, but cannot be used as a substitute for a peer-reviewed article. 
  • When in doubt about source type, ask a librarian.
  • When in doubt about whether or not to use a magazine article in your paper, ask your professor.