Whatever you read or view, you should always maintain a healthy skepticism about both its authority and reliability. A commercial publisher's editorial department provides a filter between you and the information it publishes to help ensure that it is authoritative and accurate. Libraries provide another filter with the process of selecting the published materials for that library's collection. Those filters in no way excuse you from evaluating what you see or read for yourself, but they do provide some insurance. Traditional information evaluation criteria are:
Accuracy How reliable is the information? Are there editors?
Authority Is the author a subject specialist? What are his/her qualifications? How responsible is the publisher?
Objectivity Is there any bias evident in the information? Is the information trying to persuade the opinion of the audience?
Currency Is the content up-to-date? Is the publication date readily available?
Coverage What subjects are covered in the material and to what depth?
Scholarly vs. Non-scholarly Periodicals
The primary purpose of these periodicals is to produce a profit for the publisher. Examples include Time, Newsweek, and People.
Available for public purchase at stores and newsstands
As a whole, are designed to persuade, to entertain, and to sell advertised products
The articles are short and are written to entertain the general public, not necessarily to inform
Articles may also consist of brief summaries of research done by others
Articles are seldom footnoted, and the source for the information is rarely provided
Articles are usually written by freelance writers or members of the magazine's staff
Articles often are illustrated with color graphics and photographs
Advertisements are aimed at the general public
General Interest Magazines
The primary purpose of these periodicals is to provide information in a general manner to a broad audience. Examples include Sports Illustrated, Fast Company, and Rolling Stone.
Articles generally written by a member of the editorial staff or a freelance writer
Language of articles geared to any educated audience, no subject expertise assumed
No peer review process
Sources are sometimes cited, but more often there are no footnotes or bibliography
The primary purpose of trade journals is to provide news and information to people in a particular industry or profession. Examples include Women's Wear Daily, Hotel and Motel Management, Lodging, and Travel Weekly.
Can be published by for-profit corporations, but are often published by a professional association
Editorial staff, which selects the articles, consists mainly of individuals with experience or education within the industry or profession
Authors are usually practitioners or educators within the industry or profession
Articles focus on practical topics of interest to practitioners
Articles rarely report original research, but excellent sources of statistical information about the industries they cover
Articles often are illustrated with color graphics and photographs similar in nature to the popular magazines
Journals often include employment announcements for job vacancies within the industry or profession
Articles may not be extensively documented, providing few footnotes and rarely including bibliographies
Advertisements are for industrial or specialized products and are aimed at people in that industry or profession
The primary purpose of scholarly journals is to inform and to report on original research or experimentation. Examples include New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of Safety Research, Journal of Studies on Alcohol, Annals of Tourism Research.
Usually published by a scholarly professional association or university
Editors are usually scholars in the field with established reputations. Before the editors accept an article for publication, it is first reviewed by scholars or researchers in the field
Illustrations, if any, are usually graphs or charts, with few color graphics or photographs
Articles are lengthy and extensively documented, with all references provided in footnotes or end notes
Authors have conducted research in the field and are usually affiliated with a university or research center; authors' credentials are usually listed at the beginning or at the end of the articles
Authors write in the language of their discipline
Readers, usually other scholars or college students, are assumed to have some knowledge of the field and to be familiar with the jargon
Articles are usually preceded by abstracts (summaries)
Scholarly journals contain few, if any, advertisements