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Pharmacology research project guidance: Evaluating your sources

Help, resources and links to guide you through your research project.

Not all sources are reliable. You should only be using the highest quality resources in your project. Here are some ways you can evaluate your sources.

Peer review

Journals which have a peer review process are generally considered more reliable than other journals. All articles submitted to a peer reviewed journal are checked by other experts in the field before they are published.

Flow chart showing the peer review process from submission, to editorial checks, to reviewers, to acceptance or rejection

Types of review
1.Single blind review
  • Reviewers know who the authors are
  • Authors do not know who the reviews are
2. Double blind review
  • Reviewers do not know who the authors are
  • Authors do not know who the reviewers are
3. Open review
  • Reviewers know who the authors are
  • Authors know who the reviewers are
What do reviewers look for?
  • Is the approach appropriate?
  • Are the study design, methods and analysis appropriate to the question being studied?
  • Is the research question answered?
Originality and significance
  •   Is the study design innovative or original? 
  •   Does the study challenge or add to existing knowledge?
  •   Is the research question clear? Does it matter?
Journal standards
  • Does the paper fit the standards and scope of the journal
Predatory journals

SharkThese journals publish articles without checking them for quality and legitimacy. They charge authors a fee but don't provide all the editorial and other services provided by legitimate academic journals. They often approach academics directly and trick them into publishing with them.

As these are often Open Access journals, one way to check if it is a reputable source is to see if the journal is listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). This site only includes peer reviewed, Open Access journals.

Finding peer reviewed articles

On the Library's Summon discovery service you can apply the 'Peer review' limit to your search results to restrict to the highest quality articles.

Databases listed on the Library website will evaluate journals before they are selected for inclusion, although they may also include non-peer reviewed titles such as trade journals if they are relevant. If you are unsure about the quality of an article you wish to use, take a look at the instructions for authors on the journal's website and it should indicate if a review takes place.

Using websites and documents found on the web

In most cases the majority of your project references will be for primary journal articles which record research which has taken place. These can be supplemented with secondary sources such as books and review articles, although when using review articles you should always try to go back to the original source cited, rather than citing the review. Similarly, if you find a news article which summarises a recent study, try to go back to the original write up of the study instead of relying on the interpretation given in the news article.

Websites and documents found on the web should be included with caution. Use the guidance below to help you decide if the source of sufficient quality to be cited in your work. 

Tips on evaluating websites


Before believing the information given on a web site, or quoting it in your essay or project, think about the following:


  • Who is responsible for the page/site?
  • Is it a reliable organisation (eg a well known university) or a subject expert?
  • Can you trust them?

Accuracy and reliability

  • Is the information correct?
  • Is the grammar and spelling correct?
  • Is it complete, or are they just giving one point of view?
  • Do they have their own agenda eg political organisations?
  • Is the information fact or opinion?


  • Can you tell how up-to-date it is?
  • Is it regularly updated?
  • You don't want to quote out-of-date information

Audience / relevance

  • Is the information of the right level to be quoted in your project? If it is aimed at the general public or school children it might not be!


  • Is the site well structured and easy to navigate?
  • Are the links from the page up-to-date and valid?
  • If it is well designed and maintained then you can feel more confident about the information it provides