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Research Assistance: Types of Sources

Scholarly Publications

What is a Scholarly Source?

College professors often require students to write papers as a part of their coursework, frequently stipulating the use of scholarly sources. These sources are usually academic writings by educators, professionals and researchers who specialize in specific subject areas. The writers (also called authors)  sprinkle the documents with specialized language and include graphs or charts to illustrate their findings.

The writers of scholarly sources have typically finished work on a scientific study or research project; therefore, they use the scholarly publication to publicly report their findings to their professional colleagues and those studying in the discipline.  A scholarly publication should have a list of references (citations), usually at the end of the publication, to document a review of previously published literature that is relevant to the author's publication.  Scholarly sources have no advertising and are not intended for reading by the general public.

Peer Reviewed or Refereed?

 What does it mean if a journal is peer reviewed or refereed? 

A journal that is peer reviewed or refereed utilizes scholars, researchers, or practitioners in the field to evaluate the strength of scholarship and overall quality of articles submitted for publication. Because of their expertise, peer reviewers can also comment on the relevance of the article to their field of study and the appropriateness of the article for the journal. As a result, articles in peer reviewed journals are often thought to be more authoritative than articles from non-refereed journals.

In contrast, magazines or journals that do not have a peer review process in place typically rely on an editor or editorial team to make decisions about whether an article will be published and, if so, what changes will be required.

It is also important to keep in mind that even in peer reviewed journals there may be content, such as news items, letters, and brief reports, that does not go through the peer review process.

Tips for Finding Scholarly/Peer Reviewed Publications

Books 

You can find scholarly books by looking for additional information about the book and the author.  Some ways to do that include:

1.  Use the author link in an WorldShare record to see if there are other books by the author.  If the person has published several books in the field, he/she is probably a scholar in that area. 

2.  Look at the publisher of the book. Scholarly books are often published by a university press.

3.  Do a Google search for the author to see what information you can find.  (This can be tricky if the person has a fairly common name – make sure you find the right person!)

4.  Look for a review of the book.  Academic Search Complete and other databases include book reviews.  Look for one for any book you are interested in using in your project to see what the critics have to say about it.  You can limit the search to reviews from scholarly publications too.

5.  Look for books with an index and a list of references.  Research-based books will have both.

Articles

Articles come from a variety of publications: peer-reviewed/scholarly journals, trade publications, or popular magazines.  To find the more scholarly information, try the following:

1.  Limit the database search to “scholarly” or “peer reviewed” so the results are only from academic journals.  Scholarly publications usually have “Journal”, “Quarterly” or “Research” in the title. 

2.  If you don’t find enough information using the scholarly search limit, search all publications and look at the length of the articles.  Articles that are more detailed and in-depth are usually 5 pages or longer.

3.  Don’t use information from popular magazines like TimeNewsweekUS News & World Report, New York Time Magazine, etc.  These publications generally do not have a lot of depth in their articles and they are news-based, not research-based.

4.  Look for articles that are mainly text and do not have visuals or images.

5.  Look for a list of references or a bibliography.

6.  Look for information about the article’s author.  See if the person has written other articles on the same subject and where they have been published.

Webpages

1. Look at the author’s background, credentials, and list of other publications.

2. Look at the length of the page and level of information provided. You want to find pages that provide some depth or detail on a topic.  Be wary of pages that have grammatical, spelling, or other basic errors.

3. Confirm the information found on the Web with other sources.  It should be consistent with information you’ve found elsewhere.

4. Look for a date or date last updated.  This is especially important if you need current information or there have been a lot of changes or new developments in your topic area recently.

5. Look at the ads or sponsors of the site to determine how they might influence the content.

6. Look for a list of references or a bibliography.  A good scholarly Webpage will be just like an article or book; it will include a list of the resources used in the research.