Salisbury University Libraries


Holloway Hall

Chemistry 403/413 - Seminar - Module 4

Source Evaluation and Selection


Now that you are both familiar and comfortable with searching for journal articles and books using the Blackwell Library databases and book catalog,  you need to learn how to perform a quick - yet thorough - analysis of the sources you have found before actually using them.  In this module we will cover how to analyze print sources via five basic points, as well as how to analyze online (web) sources.  In the following fifth (and final) module, you will learn how to properly cite - in ACS format - all of the sources that you have found and then analyzed for accuracy, validity, and scholarship. 

Analyzing Sources:  The Bibliographic Citation

While you can be fairly certain that the materials you find via the Blackwell databases or book catalogs are valid sources, it never hurts to get into the habit of asking yourself a few crucial questions about each and every source you find.  The following five basic points are key ones when analyzing a material's validity and content:


What are the author's credentials--institutional affiliation (where he or she works), educational background, past writings, or experience? Is the book or article written on a topic in the author's area of expertise?

Has your instructor mentioned this author? Have you seen the author's name cited in other sources or bibliographies? Respected authors are cited frequently by other scholars. For this reason, always note those names that appear in many different sources.

Is the author associated with a reputable institution or organization? What are the basic values or goals of the organization or institution?


Date of Publication

When was the source published? This date is often located on the face of the title page below the name of the publisher. If it is not there, look for the copyright date on the reverse of the title page. On Web pages, the date of the last revision is usually at the bottom of the home page, sometimes every page. Is the source current or out-of-date for your topic? Topic areas of continuing and rapid development, such as the sciences, demand more current information. On the other hand, topics in the humanities often require material that was written many years ago. At the other extreme, some news sources on the Web now note the hour and minute that articles are posted on their site.


Edition or Revision

Is this a first edition of this publication or not? Further editions indicate a source has been revised and updated to reflect changes in knowledge, include omissions, and harmonize with its intended reader's needs. Also, many printings or editions may indicate that the work has become a standard source in the area and is reliable. If you are using a Web source, do the pages indicate revision dates?



Note the publisher. If the source is published by a university press or a reputable organization such as the American Chemical Society, it is likely to be scholarly. Although the fact that the publisher is reputable does not necessarily guarantee quality, it does show that the publisher may have high regard for the source being published.


Title of Journal

Is this a scholarly or a popular journal? This distinction is important because it indicates different levels of complexity in conveying ideas. If you need help in determining the type of journal, see Cornell Library's page explaining the difference between the various types:   Distinguishing Scholarly from Non-Scholarly Periodicals.


Depending on which Blackwell database you search within, the types of results you get can vary widely.  Searching within the ACS database all you will get will be scholarly (also called 'academic') journal articles, because the only types of journals that ACS indexes are scholarly sources.  Searching in a different database - for example - Academic Search Complete - will get you a hodgepodge of results.  Academic Search Complete indexes scholarly journals, but they also index popular sources (such as People magazine, the New York Times newspaper, and National Geographic) and what are considered 'trade' titles - like the journal Computers in Industry

It is very important to pay attention to which database you are searching, and to keep an eye on your search results so that you can keep track of the types of journal articles that you are finding and reviewing. 


Evaluating Web Sources

Because the web is extremely unregulated, it is extremely important for you to be particularly careful about analyzing the online web sources that you find and decide to use. 

Note that searching within an (online) Blackwell database for journal articles is *not* the same as using a web source!

One of the best key criteria for evaluating a web site is to look at the site's URL.  For example, shows you that the site is an academic one (all academic sites end with .edu) and that Salisbury is the organization.  The following chart reviews the four basic web site domains and their characteristics. 

Domain Type of web page Characteristics Tips for Use
.gov United States government web page Generally reliable sources of statistics, company financial information, legislative information, legal information, regulatory information, and information on many other topics. Also look for state pages, such as and regional or local government web pages.
.edu Web page of an educational institution Source for institutional information and sometimes scholarly information. Use with caution because students often post their papers on these pages, and professors or staff members at the institution may be able to post any information they choose.
.org Web page of an organization Information about the nonprofit organization with articles and links to other resources that support the organization's mission. Because most organizations are promoting a specific point of view, there may be bias in what they present.  If you find information that you want to use on an organization's web site, check the information against the information from a more objective source first.  If you cannot find the same information in a a more objective source, do not use the information.
.com Commercial web site Useful information on many topics.  Current news from media sites (newspapers, television channels), medical and pharmaceutical information, business and company information. In general, company sites are promoting their products, companies, or in the case of news media, their point of view.  They are not necessarily objective and may be biased. 

Source: Library Skills and Information Literacy Department, University of Maryland University College, Adelphi, MD 20783.



Module 4 Quiz



Chemistry 403/413 Professor:


1. European Polymer Journal.  Miniemulsion polymerization of cyclodextrin nanospheres for water purification from organic pollutants.  Eti Baruch-Teblum Titzhak Mastai, Katharina Landfester.  46 (2010), 1671-1678.


Looking at the journal article above above, fill in the following information:



Article Title: 

Journal Title: 

Year of Publication:

Journal Volume Number: 

Page Range: 



2.   Chemistry for Environmental and Earth Sciences.  Catherine V.A. Duke & Craig D. Williams.  Boca Raton, CRC Press, c2008. 


Looking at the book listed above, fill in the following information:


Book Title: 

Name of Publishing Company: 

Place of Publication: 

Year of Publication: 


3.  For each of the following journal articles, choose Scholarly or Popular from the corresponding drop-down list. 


 Berardelli, P.   Marine Creatures Survived Ancient Ocean Acidification.  Science Now, 2010, 1. 



Tsuzuki, W.; Matsuoka, A.; Ushida, K.  Formation of Trans Fatty Acids in Edible Oils During the Frying and Heating Process.  Food Chem., 2010, 123, 976-982.



Galian, R.; Guardia de la, M.  The Use of Quantum Dots in Organic Chemistry.  TrAC Trends in Analy. Chem., 2009, 28, 279-291.



Markoff, J.  Team's Work Uses a Virus to Convert Methane to Ethylene.  New York Times, 2010, 3.