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Information Retrieval: Source criticism

How to identify a scholarly article?

  • often peer reviewed
  • includes a list of references
  • includes an abstract
  • usually written by researchers
  • usually longer than one or two pages
  • rarely includes advertisements

Good scientific conduct

Responsible conduct of research - guidelines of the Finnish Board on Research Integrity
Uniarts Helsinki's Code of Ethics (on Uniarts intranet)

Where to find scientific journals?

Assessing the quality of sources

Reliability of the information producer

  • Is the producer an established agency, organization or expert?
    • new and inexperienced publishers or producers can be reliable too
  • Is the author respected or authoritative in their field?
    • early career researchers' work can be equally trustworthy
    • experience can't be the only criteria
  • Can you tell who has produced the information by looking at the website address?
  • Can you find all or any contact information from the website?

Reliability of the information

  • Is the information thoroughly researched, objective, and reliable?
  • Are all citations mentioned appropriately?
  • Is there a reference list?
  • Can you verify or check the citations?
  • Has the resource been checked by the publisher or editor? Has it been peer-reviewed
    • not peer-reviewed academic papers


  • Is it objective or subjective?
  • Are the content facts or the author's opinions?
  • Is the information unique, or can you find similar information from a more reliable and high-quality source?
  • It's important to be able to tell the difference between websites that include factual information from websites that host only opinions, arguments or disinformation

The extent of information

  • Have different aspects and points of view been considered?
  • How comprehensive or detailed is the information?
  • Is it limited to certain eras?

Topicality of online sources

  • Is the producer or author known?
  • Is the author known as an expert of the field?
  • Is the producer established and recognized?
  • Is the document dated?
  • Is the information up-to-date
  • Is there any more recent information available?
  • Should the information be updated? When was it last updated?

Objective, target group

  • Why did the author or publisher publish the material?
  • Why was it published where it was?
  • To whom is targeted to or meant for?
  • Does it suit your information need?

Journal lists based on expert evaluations

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