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Business Administration Research Guide: Evaluating information sources

This guide leads to journal articles, books, and other sources that provide credible information for research assignments and projects in business courses.

Evaluation Criteria

Evaluating your sources is the most important thing you can do.

The criteria to evaluate sources include:

  • Accuracy
  • Authority
  • Objectivity
  • Currency
  • Coverage

These criteria are considered more in-depth in the file below.

Reading in Business

  • Technical and trade journals help someone do their job better by providing current news of importance to the profession as well as job postings and ads relevant to the profession.


  • Examples of trade/technical journals include NRF Stores (a trade magazine for retailers) and Harvard Business Review (a "trade" magazine for business people).

Scholarly journals report original research -- that is, newly reported research carried out by the person or persons writing the article.


Examples of scholarly journals include Management Science, Business Horizons, and Journal of Management Information System

Scholarly Continuum of Magazines/Journals


This table describes the differences between scholarly journals, technical/trade journals, substantial news/general interest magazines, and popular magazines based on the set of criteria in the left column.

These criteria may be used to determine where in the continuum from scholarly to popular a particular periodical (magazine or journal) falls.







 Audience & Purpose


Audience: Specific professional audience of other scholars in the discipline or profession.

Purpose:  Reports or makes available original research or experimentation to the rest of the scholarly world.


Audience: Specific professional audience of people in a particular discipline or profession. 

Purpose:  Helps someone do their job better by reporting on new techniques (but does not report original research). Includes job listings and other news of interest to people in that profession. 


Audience:  Educated audience with interest in the topics (not aimed at a professional group).

Purpose: Provides substantial information to an interested audience.

Audience: General audience.

Purpose: Primarily entertains or persuades.  Hidden agenda may include selling products or services.



Generally have grave, serious formats.


Are attractive in appearance.

Attractive in appearance.

Generally slick & glossy with an attractive format.



Contain graphs and charts to illustrate the articles but usually quite plain in appearance with minimal use of color.


Include photographs, illustrations and graphics to enhance the publication.

Include photographs, illustrations and graphics to enhance the publication.


Contain photographs, illustrations and drawings to enhance their image.




Cite sources with footnotes and/or bibliography.


Articles may not be footnoted or may have few footnotes.

Occasionally cite sources, but this is exception to rule.

Rarely cite sources; Original sources can be obscure.


Written by scholars or researchers in the specialty.



Written by people working in a particular profession.


Written either by the magazine’s staff, a scholar, or free-lance writers.

Written by the publication’s staff or free-lance writers for a broad based audience.





Use terminology, jargon and the language of the discipline covered.  The reader is assumed to have a similar scholarly background.


Use terminology and jargon of the field but are usually less formal in tone.

Use language appropriate for an educated readership. They do not necessarily emphasize a specialty but do assume a certain level of intelligence.

Use simple language in order to meet a minimum education level.  Articles are kept short, with little depth.




Generally published by a professional organization or society.


Published by professional association.

Published by commercial enterprises for profit.

Published for profit.




No advertising or very minimal, selective advertising.


Advertisements are aimed at people in that profession -- including products and services of interest to them.


Carry general advertising.

Carry extensive general advertising.




New England Journal of Medicine

Journal of the Am. Chemical Society

Harvard Business Review

American Biology  Teacher

Chemical  & Engineering News

Scientific American

Psychology Today



Reader's Digest

ENGL201 Scholarly table.

Karl E. Mundt Library/ Dakota State University.

Based on document developed by Purdue University. Undergraduate Library