Skip to main content
University of Minnesota Duluth block M and wordmark

Communication Research Guide

Spring 2017

Evaluating Information

It can be difficult to know what is a quality source and what isn't. Here are a few things to look for when evaluating resources:

  • Authority and accuracy: Who authored the information? What are their credentials?
  • Intended audience: Is the information directed to a particular group? (researchers, consumers, etc.)
  • Purpose of information: Is the information designed to educate? To market an idea or product?
  • Date created & updated: Is the web site well maintained and recently updated?
  • Contact information: Is it possible to contact the author or institution?

Why Use Library Resources?

It may be tempting to think....Isn't everything on the internet? Can't I just use Google and Wikipedia for my research?

While Google, Wikipedia, and other internet sources can be useful, you don't want to rely on them for your research. Why not?

  • Not everything is openly accessible on the internet. The UMD Library subscribes to and purchases high quality resources that are not available on the internet.
  • Information overload: using a search engine, like Google, often means that you get thousands or millions of results. Library databases are organized in such a way that the results are more manageable. This allows you to find the best resources for your topic quickly.
  • Authority & accuracy: keep in mind that anyone can create or edit an entry in Wikipedia. Anyone can create a website. How will you know if the author is an expert? How will you verify the information?
  • Your professors want to see high quality, scholarly sources cited in your papers. Impress them by using library resources!

Is it ever okay to use Google or Wikipedia?

  • If you need background information about a topic before you research it, looking in a place like Wikipedia can be helpful. You can also find background information and overviews of various topics by using online encyclopedias at the UMD Library.
  • Think of internet resources as a starting point, but NEVER a stopping point. Always go beyond Wikipedia!

What is a Peer Reviewed Journal?

When an instructor requires students to find journal articles he/she will usually expect articles from peer-reviewed journals.

Peer review is the process by which an author's peers read a paper submitted for publication.

A number of recognized researchers in the field will evaluate the manuscript and recommend its publication, revision, or rejection.

Articles accepted for publication through a peer review process implicitly meet the discipline's expected standards of expertise.

Identifying Resources by Type

Scholarly Journals

Trade Magazines

Popular Magazines



Communicate research and scholarly ideas

Provide trends, information, and professional support to particular industry

Provide information and entertainment to general readers


Simple cover design, few images or ads. Some include charts, graphs, statistics

Often glossy paper, images/advertisements relate to trade

Glossy, colorful, many images and lots of advertising


Experts in the field, Researchers. Author names, credentials, and institutional affiliation listed

Magazine staff or writers affiliated with the trade/industry. Often published by trade organization or assoc.

Journalists, freelance writers, magazine staff (names often not given)


Scholars, researchers, students

Practitioners in the field, members of a particular profession

General public

Article Length

Tend to be longer, may include research, in-depth analysis, very specific focus

Length varies

Typically shorter articles, from less than 1 page to several pages.


Original research, literary criticism and theory, literature review, in-depth analysis of topic

Articles about professional trends, new products or techniques, and industry-related news

Short, feature-length articles. News and general interest topics

Writing Style

Uses terminology, language and jargon relevant to the discipline

Technical, field-specific language used, assumes readers familiar with industry

Simple language used, written for general public




Articles typically include references, notes, works cited

Articles sometimes have references listed

References typically not listed


Shakespeare Quarterly

Journal of the American Medical Association

Journal of Political Economy

Automotive News

Strategy & Business

 Advertising Age


Rolling Stone

Sports Illustrated

Search Tips for Resarchers

Selecting Key Words

  • Formulate your research question, then break it into key concepts
  • Identify terms
  • Consider synonyms. For example, you could use global warming, climate change, or Greenhouse effect

Narrowing and Expanding
Too Many Results? Try Narrowing Your Search by:

  • Time period
  • Location
  • Specific aspect or event

Not Enough Results? Try Expanding Your Search by:

  • Search for related issues or industries
  • Try additional keywords

Additional Tips
Are there any databases or indexes you haven’t searched yet?
Keep in mind, some topics are so new (especially current events), you may not be able to find many books, so you might want to look at newspapers or periodicals.