Evaluating materials for inclusion as a scientific reference:
Resources in psychology are critical to the many assignments in a
variety of classes. Therefore, you should use some general criteria for
evaluation of resources. As a general rule, journal articles are your most
important resource, followed by books, and lastly reputable internet
sites. The following information should serve as a general guide for
evaluation of the sources. For a more thorough set of evaluation
criteria see How To
Critically Analyze Information Sources.
Credibility of a journal should be considered when you are selecting
references. First it is important to distinguish between a scholarly
journal and a popular magazine. If you are unclear about this
distinction, please refer to the library page What
is a Scholarly Journal? As a general rule, you will want to select
an article that has statistics. In other words, if it does not have
statistical results, it probably will not count as one of the minimum
number of reference materials.
Once you have selected a scholarly journal, it is important to
realize that not all journals are created equal. If the articles
contained in the journal have undergone the peer review process, they
are considered to have more credibility.
Scientific books are useful for learning about background and the
theory associated with your topic. Books are usually used to provide you
with a more thorough understanding of complex theory or as a general
reference. Although the date of publication may seem important, some
older texts are seen as seminal works, and they are sometimes the most
important theoretical work in the area. In addition to the publication
date, it is important to note who published the text. Information about
publishers can be found in Books in Print. Several reference resources
can be accessed through your librarianís reference desk.
Internet resources are more difficult to evaluate with respect to
credibility. Anybody can create a web page! Although the information may
be in print, and may look valid, it may not be accurate. If you would
like to consider how to evaluate web sites, be sure to use the
information in Evaluating Web-based Information.
Evaluation of Tests
Several issues must be considered when you wish to evaluate the utility
of a psychological instrument. First and foremost, a single instrument is
never enough to provide thorough information about an individual test. If
you would like to read about specific widely used instruments, you may
find information about the Mental Measurements Yearbook at The
Buros Institute. The actual MMY is available in the reference section
of the library. For more information about how to use the Mental
Measurements Yearbook, see A Guide to Finding
Information About Tests. The Ninth (1985) to the present
editions of MMY are also available
Remember! Your research is not completed simply by searching for
reviews in Mental Measurements Yearbook, Tests in Print and Tests
Critiques. In some cases reviews for a specific test do not appear in
these sources because the test is new or is not widely used or well-known.
Moreover, the print sources listed above (e.g. MMY) are out-of-date the
moment they are published. You must follow up by searching for reviews
which appear as journal articles. To search for these, you will need to
use PsycINFO or
Second, a test should be evaluated with respect to utility and
psychometric principles. ERIC offers connections to useful internet
resources at Assessment &
Evaluation on the Internet. Specific suggestions about how to
appropriately evaluate psychological and educational instruments are
located at http://www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed385607.html.
The American Psychological Association
offers information about frequently asked testing questions, guidelines,
standards, and related testing questions.
Psychological Society offers limited information about research
practices and assessment data.
Educational Testing Services is a company that produces tests such as
Advanced Placement (AP) and the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) exams.
Information about these tests and related issues can be found at http://www.ets.org/cbt/.
The Psychology AP exam is graded by high school and college teachers once
each summer. Information about this experience can be found at http://lyco.lycoming.edu/~hakala/aphome1.htm
To learn about computer based testing, you may wish to experience a
demonstration located at http://ericae.net/scripts/cat/catdemo.htm.
Finally, test publishers offer information about the products that they
are marketing at the web sites listed below. Be sure that you recognize
that these are companies trying to market a product. By virtue of their
mission, companies seek to present their product in the best possible
Additional links to testing companies are available at Assessment
& Evaluation on the Internet: Test Descriptions.
Plagiarism can be intentional or unintentional. Most often students
unintentionally plagiarize a published source. It is not enough to merely
cite the reference that you are reading. You must either place the
information that you are using in direct quotes or you must appropriately
paraphrase the material. For example if you were to try to paraphrase the
"Detailed analyses revealed that with increased age adults
in this time management activity were less likely to perform self-paced
tasks and to attempt difficult auditory discrimination judgements"
(Salthouse, Hambrick, Lukas, & Dell, 1996, p. 305).
It is possible that you might try the following paraphrase:
Analyses revealed that increased age adults in the time
management activity were less likely to perform self-paced tasks.
This paraphrase attempt is incorrect, even if you
attach the appropriate citation. In other words, this constitutes
plagiarism! Instead you should try to summarize the information in your
own words. The following example is more appropriate.
Researchers found that age inhibited willingness of participants
to initiate difficult tasks.
You will notice that this information has been summarized and that this
is a better example of a correct paraphrase. It is
important to realize that this paraphrase must still be appropriately
More information from Dartmouth
Reference Sources for Writing Papers
Assessing Children with the Wechsler
Intelligence Scale for Children - Third Edition
Graduate student paper: Reviewing the Life
Satisfaction in the Elderly Scale (LSES)
Adhere to McCarthy's Law! Everything that can go wrong will go wrong
at the most inconvenient time!
Plan to complete your paper at least one day prior to when it is
due! Otherwise the computer will crash, the printer will break, or
some unforeseen disaster will occur.
ALWAYS back up your work!
Never turn in your only copy! It is possible for a professor to
inadvertently lose your paper. This actually occurred when the
tornado of 1999 destroyed the offices of the department of
Always turn in typed products which are clearly organized and
adhere to APA format. Donít forget those page numbers!
Be sure to staple your paper before turning it in!
Created by Maureen McCarthy, Associate Professor of
Psychology; Lori Buchanan, User Education Librarian; and DeAnne Luck,
Electronic Resources Librarian