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ENG218: Women in Literature: Resource Evaluation

Fact vs Opinion

  • Burger King French fries are the best fast-food restaurant French fries.
  • A "day" (from sunrise to sunset) on Mars is longer than a day on Earth.

These are two statements. One is a fact, and one is an opinion. It may seem obvious from these simplistic examples which is which, but when reading more advanced sources, or from a particularly talented writer, the differences might be harder to spot. 

Learning to separate fact from opinion is especially important when you're using that information to make political decisions. Staying informed about what's actually going on in your country, and how your government works, is key to being an informed and empowered citizen.

Evaluating Information

Check out these research guides for how to evaluate a source: Is this the right source for my information need? Can I trust the information this source presents?

Read About This Skill

Practice This Skill

Fact Check!

Types of Periodicals: Scholarly and Popular

What is the difference between articles in Time magazine and The Journal of Studies on Alcohol? Why use scholarly journals for your research papers? This chart helps you observe the differences.


1) Scholarly journals

  • Intended audience: Scholars, researchers, professionals
  • Are sources cited?: Yes
  • Who wrote the articles?  Scholars and researchers
  • Type of advertising: None, or for professional events (academic conferences, university-published books)
  • Level of analysis: High
  • Who is the publisher? Professional organizations, usually
  • Other traits: Reports original research
  • Examples:  Journal of Marriage and Family, Journal of Studies on Alcohol.

Scholarly journals may also be called peer reviewed or refereed journals. This indicates that a panel of experts reviewed the article manuscripts thoroughly before they were published. If other researchers based their work on faulty original research, bad research would spread quickly!

2) Popular Periodicals:

a) News magazines & newspapers

  • Intended audience: General audience
  • Are sources cited? No
  • Who wrote the articles?  Staff writers, freelance writers or scholars
  • Type of advertising: Variety of general-interest products (clothes, cars, food, etc.)
  • Level of analysis: Low to medium; depends on the article
  • Who is the publisher? For-profit businesses, primarily
  • Other traits:  Often entertainment-oriented; covers very current events
  • Examples:  New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Maclean's, U.S. News & World Report. 

b) Popular magazines

  • Intended audience: General audience (no special expertise in a subject)
  • Are sources cited? Rarely
  • Who wrote the articles?  Staff writers, freelance writers
  • Type of advertising: Variety of general-interest products (clothes, cars, food, etc.)
  • Level of analysis: Low; can be sensational or superficial
  • Who is the publisher? For-profit businesses
  • Other traits: Good introduction to a current topic or current events
  • Examples: Glamour, People, Sport Illustrated.

c) Trade magazines

  • Intended audience: Professionals or specialists; uses technical jargon
  • Are sources cited? No
  • Who wrote the articles?  Editorial staff, freelance writers
  • Type of advertising:  Industry-specific products, usually
  • Level of analysis: Medium
  • Who is the publisher? Trade or professional association or businesses
  • Other traits: Covers news & trends in a specific industry
  • Examples: Beverage World, Progressive  Grocer, Modern Tire Dealer, American Libraries.

d) Opinion Periodicals

  • Intended audience: Educated general audience
  • Are sources cited? No
  • Who wrote the articles?  Editorial staff, freelance writers
  • Type of advertising:  Variety of products
  • Level of analysis: Medium; opinions, commentary, etc.
  • Who is the publisher? Businesses, usually
  • Other traits: Could be helpful in pro/con arguments
  • Examples:  Nation, Commentary, New Republic, National Review.

Some publications could fit in more than one category. For instance: Scientific American is a scholarly journal with scientific but readable articles. It has a suggested reading list, but does not actually cite its sources. When in doubt, ask your instructor if certain articles are suitable for your research paper.

For help with citing articles, visit the college’s Center for Reading and Writing on the main floor of the library for personalized assistance in organizing and writing your paper and bibliography.

Open Educational Resources

Research Tips from the Field: Journalism

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