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If an article cites another journal article, would that make you believe more in the author's claims and arguments? Are scholarly materials automatically trustworthy, authoritative or credible? Even if an article cites multiple academic journals, if something sounds too good to be true, it doesn't hurt to fact check first!
Do you know what exactly are academic journals? Heard of peer-review or journal rankings such as impact factor? Read more about the tips on how to evaluate academic journals below.
Evaluating academic sources
When you come across an article that cites academic journals next time, try thinking about these:
- Verify if the citation is correct
Sometimes authors want to sound scholarly and may provide non-working links to the journal instead of the specific cited article. Is the journal article's title at least related to what the author is talking about?
- Read the journal article first
Don't just believe in what the author has quoted! Read the article if you have the time, or at least glance through the abstract!
- Be wary of sweeping claims
Some authors make sweeping claims based on 'evidence' they have 'read' on the journal article. Some authors even generalise, extrapolate and make erroneous claims based on the findings presented in one journal article!
- Read more about the Journal on the About page
Take note of when the journal was first published, if it is peer-reviewed, the journal's editorial or submission criteria etc. to learn more about the journal.
- Check the Journal's Impact Factor
Generally, journals with an impact factor ranking are more credible and are indexed by major journal publishers. If you are unable to find the impact factor for a journal, that's a potential red flag!
- Check the credentials of the academic authors
Google the author(s)! Try and find them on their institution's academic profile, or their Google Scholar profile. Take note of their qualifications, area of expertise and what they have written in the past.
Impact Factor... what?
One additional check you can do with journals and their articles is to check their journal metrics. In a nutshell, journal metrics are a measure of how good a journal’s performance is. One of these metrics is the journal's impact factor. The impact factor "measures the number of times an average paper in a particular journal has been referred to" - Elsevier.
There are several journal metrics out there and you can start with these:
- Journal Impact Factor; accessible from Journal Citation Report
- CiteScore, SJR, SNIP; accessible from journalmetrics.com
Do note that there are fake impact factor companies who exist to supplement 'predatory journals/publishers'.