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Scientific Articles: How to Evaluate a Research Article

Not sure if the scholarly article you're reading is any good?   This page contains tips that will help you to know how to begin to evaluate the research you're using for your projects. 

General Tips for Evaluating Articles

There are a couple of general questions that are worth asking of any article before reading, so that you can see how important it might be.  

You'll want to start with the journal.  Head to the journal website, look for the "about us" or "journal information" link and think about the following questions: 

  • How well respected is the journal that published the article?  Big, general journals tend to publish more high-profile research than regional journals. 
  • Do you see info about a peer review process (does it exist?)  
  • Does the journal have an editorial board of the journal?
  • What is the impact factor (a way of assessing how much the research in a journal is cited and used) of the journal?  Is it mentioned?  

Next, focus on the article to gather some general facts: 

  • Who is (are) the author(s) of the article?  What is their expertise? 
  • How old is the article?  In many of the sciences, you want to avoid information that is too old. (For example, an article about ocean acidification published in 2001 may no longer be relevant-- we should know more about this topic by now.)
  • If the article is more than 6 months old, has anyone cited it?  You can check this number in many of our databases, including Academic Search Complete, Science Direct, and SciFinder, as well as in Google Scholar. 

Specific Questions to Ask When Reading Your Article

Common themes for article critique include the types of data, the control groups, the number of subjects, the variable, and overall experiment design. For example:

  • Does the way that the scientists are conducting their research answer the questions they've posed?
  • Do the lab techniques being used by the researchers seem to deliver good results?
  • How large was their sample size? How diverse was it (if applicable)?
  • Was there a control group?  Why or why not? 
  • Does the data presented match the descriptions of the data?
  • How well does the conclusion draw upon earlier sections of the article?

Questions? Take a look at How to Read and Critique a Scientific Research Article on reserve.

Science Research Help

Trying to find a scholarly article?  Here are some specialized guides to searching databases for scientific information:

Have questions about what research or review articles are, how to read research articles, or how to evaluate them? Take a look at the following guides for more information. 

Need some help citing what you find?  You can check out the following links for some guidance:

And, as always, you're welcome to contact me using the information on the right, or schedule a research appointment with a librarian whenever the library is open by clicking "Ask Us for Help" on the right of the page. 

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  • Last Updated: Oct 30, 2023 7:55 AM
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