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Public Administration Doctoral Students: Evaluating Journal Articles

This guide offers research assistance to doctoral students in the Department of Public Administration.

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Evaluating Articles

There are several factors to consider when evaluating journal articles. 

 

Is the article scholarly or peer-reviewed?

 

"Peer reviewed" (or "refereed") means that an article is reviewed by experts in that field before the article gets published. Some databases allow you to limit your search to Peer Reviewed or Refereed articles. Often you can click on the journal title in a database and get information about that journal, including if it is peer-reviewed.

 

You can also check to see if a journal is peer-reviewed using Ulrich’s, a directory of all journals, magazines, news, and any other periodically-released resource. Type the journal title in the search box (leave off  A, The, An, etc. at the start of the title) and either hit "Enter" or click on the search button (green magnifying glass).

 

Find your title in the search results and click on it to see the record. Look for “Refereed” and “Yes.” If you do not see “Refereed” in the Basic Description column, it is not. Refereed is the same as peer-reviewed.

 

Is the article timely?

 

For some assignments the articles should be published within the last 5 or 10 years. Most databases let you limit the search to articles published within a specified range of years.

 

Is the article relevant?

 

The articles you use should be relevant to your research topic and to each other.  One way to find relevant articles is to use search terms appropriate for your topic. Another important step is reading and critiquing the article. Once you have read and critiqued the article, you can decide if it is relevant to your topic.

 

If you have any questions about evaluating an article, please do not hesitate to ask a librarian for help. 

Primary Versus Secondary

What is a primary research article? 

 

A primary research article reports on the original research and findings of the authors. Primary research articles usually have the following (or similar) sections:

Abstract
Introduction/Literature Review
Methodology
Results
Discussion
References

 

What is a secondary research article?

 

A secondary research article reviews, summarizes, and discusses topics of interest. The research is not original; rather, the authors look at other existing research articles on the topic. Secondary articles are useful for learning about a topic of interest and gaining a better understanding of the overall scope or limitations of the research on that topic.