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Undergraduate Research

This LibGuide will provide an overview of the research process, finding and evaluating information, and appropriate use of citation for undergraduate students completing a research project.

Research and Disinformation

How to Read Scholarly Literature

The Importance of Evaluating Information

The ability to evaluate information is an essential skill that everyone needs. This will ensure that you find the best quality information that meets your specific needs. This skill requires time and critical evaluation to find accurate, documented information. This page offers information on how to critically evaluate information.

Evaluating Your Sources

When evaluating your sources look for the following elements:

  • Audience. For whom is this source intended?
  • Accuracy. Is the information in this source correct?
  • Bias. Does the information in the source support a particular agenda?
  • Credibility. Is the author an expert in this field?
  • Currency. Is the information up to date?

Lateral Reading

Lateral Reading is a strategy to assess information from an unfamiliar online source. It is the act of evaluating the credibility of one source by comparing it with others.  It can be used to judge the expertise, reliability and biases of a source.   Note that lateral reading can also be applied to resources not found on the Web such as print books and articles.

Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

Instructors often specify whether articles used in an assignment are to be from popular or scholarly publications. Although popular sources are not without merit and may also contain well-considered writing, scholarly articles have more authority and depth of research on a given topic. Here’s a short video on how to distinguish between the two types of articles.

Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Primary sources are firsthand, contemporary accounts of events created by individuals during that period of time or several years later (such as correspondence, diaries, memoirs and personal histories). Examples of primary sources include manuscripts, newspapers, speeches, cartoons, photographs, video, and artifacts. Primary sources can be described as those sources that are closest to the origin of the information. 

Secondary sources are closely related to primary sources and often interpret them. These sources are documents that relate to information that originated elsewhere. Secondary sources often use generalizations, analysis, interpretation, and synthesis of primary sources. Examples of secondary sources include textbooks, articles, and reference books.

Below is a chart with examples based on areas of study.


Primary Source

Secondary Source


Slave diary

Book about the underground railroad


Original artwork created by an artist

Article critiquing the piece of art


Original poem written by a poet

Essay on a particular genre of poetry

Political Science

Treaty between two governments

Essay on Native American land rights in the US

Science or Social Sciences

Report of an original experiment

Review of several studies on the same topic


Videotape of a performance

Biography of a playwright

From Bowling Green State University.