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Evaluating Resources: Home

Contacting the Reference Desk

You can contact Research & Reference Desk in several ways: 

  • Chat - Available via or 
  • E-mail - 
  • Text -  740-444-4031
  • Walk-up - Chalmers Library Atrium 
  • Appointments - For individual or advanced library research consultations with a librarian, use this form make an appointment. Appointments may be scheduled in person or virtually.


Reference Desk Hours

Regular Semester Schedule

Mondays - Thursday: 11:00am-5:00pm
The desk closes on Thursday's from 12:00pm-1:00pm for staff training.

Evaluating and Assessing Expertise



  • Do you need a resource providing an overview of your topic?  And/Or do you need something that narrowly focuses on only one aspect?  
  • Does it cover the time period you are researching?  The geographic area?
  • Who is the intended audience?  Scholars?  General readers?  
  • Is it too technical?  Not technical enough?  Too basic?  Not basic enough?
  • When was the source written / published? Do you need something recent?
  • Searching in the right catalog or database can help retrieve appropriate sources.

Scholarly vs. Popular

  • Scholarly journals are typically published for experts in the field.  Articles are usually peer reviewed, which means a panel of known scholars has examined each article's content, methodology, and academic value.  Scholarly sources will usually include a bibliography and footnotes, as well as the author's credentials.  Scholarly books are usually issued by established publishers, commercial (e.g., Elsevier, Wiley, etc.) or university press (e.g., Oxford, Yale, etc.).  Scholarly journals generally don't have ads for beer or motorcycles.
  • Popular magazines range from highly regarded (Atlantic Monthly or Scientific American), to general interest (Time or Wired) to leisure (Sports Illustrated).  These articles are not peer reviewed and rarely have biliographies or footnotes.  
  • Depending on your topic, articles from popular magazines may or may not be appropriate.


  • Who are the authors?
  • What are their academic credentials?  Perhaps consult biographical sources.
  • What else have they written?  Check online catalogs or databases.
  • What have reviewers said?  Look for book reviews (limit by content type in KSearch).
  • Has the work been cited?  Consult Web of Science.

Objectivity and Reliability

  • Are both sides of an issue or topic provided?
  • Are facts clearly differentiated from opinions?
  • Are the facts that are known to you reliable?
  • Is the coverage objective? If not, is the bias clearly stated?
  • Is this the original item or has it been edited or abridged in some way?
  • Is the source a primary source or a secondary source?  The distinction may be important.


  • Who is the intended audience? Is this site for scholarly purposes or just for fun?
  • Does the site give a date when it was last updated?
  • If so, has it been updated recently?
  • Is some of the information clearly out of date?
  • Are there many links that are broken and no longer connect to the resources listed? Broken links can be an indicator that a site is not being updated regularly.
  • Is the site sponsored by a commercial organization? Is it trying to sell you something?
  • Who created this site? Why did they create the site?  Is it easy to tell?
  • Do they provide information on their background, experience, and credentials?
  • Is the site maintained by a well-known or reputable organization (e.g. the American Psychological Association, American Cancer Society, etc.)?
  • What does the URL tell you? (i.e., .edu: educational institution; .org: non-profit organization; .com: commercial enterprise; .net: Internet Service Provider; .gov: governmental body; .mil: military body)?
  • When in doubt about sponsorship, look up the site on