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ASTR 130: Origins and the Search for Life in the Universe: Evaluating Sources

A guide to resources, tools, and tips for completing your final project for Origins and the Search for Life in the Universe.

How to Evaluate Sources

Evaluating sources can be difficult — there is so much information online. It can be easy for a small fake story to be taken up by news agencies that do not check. In addition, when searching in places like Google, the first page of results is often a combination of sensationalist stories and how-to/fact lists, which may not have been curated or signed by someone with the appropriate science background. 

To make things even more complicated, scientists will often do outreach in popular publications to increase the reach of their research.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Check the bylines of authors writing news pieces about science.
  • Look at the credentials of a researcher or science writer. Does the person have a degree in the field? Is the person currently involved in academia? If ze left, is ze employed in another industry (e.g., data science)? Many people trained as scientists and academics are going into "alt-ac" careers, but they still generally have some background in the field.
  • Can you locate the original paper a news source is talking about?
  • For a scholarly article, is the journal listed in the JCR? Ulrichsweb?
  • If the journal is not in JCR or Ulrichsweb, Google the journal title and the word "predatory" or "scam." What comes up when you search? Sometimes, journals are not in the JCR because they are too small or too new to meet the strict inclusion criteria. At other times, they're scam journals. Ask your professor or librarian if you need assistance.

Really, Fake Journals?

Fake Academic Journals. If you are using a screen reader, please visit our Fake Journals tab.

How do you know?

Fake News Information. If you are using a screen reader, please click on our Fake News Tips tab, which duplicates the text.