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Research Help

Scholarly Articles

Scholarly articles are a great resource for finding in-depth, current information on a topic. Scholarly articles have a more narrow focus than books, so you can try searching for more specific topics. 

  • This type of article may also be called peer-reviewed articles, or refereed articles
  • Scholarly articles are one of the most common types of sources your professors will require you to include in your research. 
  • Scholarly articles are found in journals, which you can search for in a database. 

The McQuade Library subscribes to over 220 databases that range from general to subject-specific. 

What Makes a Book Scholarly?

How can you tell if a book is scholarly?

The fastest way is to check the publisher- if it's published by a university press (e.g. Chicago, Harvard, etc.) or other academic presses (e.g., Blackwell, Routledge, Palgrave, Ashgate) it is scholarly. Another way to decide is to look at the book's intended audience and purpose.

How are scholarly books different from regular books?

Scholarly books are published with the goal of contributing to research and knowledge of a subject, and support future research by scholars and students, not necessarily making money.

Who decides whether or not a scholarly book gets published?

All scholarly books go through an extensive process in which experts in the field read the manuscripts and decide if the book is worthy to be published.  In other words, scholarly books are peer reviewed sources.

Remember, scholarly books are just one of many kinds of books available through the library. If you are unsure if the book you have found is scholarly ask a librarian or your professor.

Understanding Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

Magazine or Journal?

When searching for articles, it's important to know what type of source, or periodical in which the articles are published. This is beacuse each type has its own purpose, intent, audience, etc. This guide lists criteria to help you identify scholarly journals, trade journals, and magazines. It is the first step in critically evaluating your source of information. Determining what makes a journal scholarly is not a clear-cut process, but there are many indicators which can help you.

Scholarly Journal

  • Reports original research or experimentation
  • Articles written by an expert in the field for other experts in the field
  • Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline
  • Articles undergo peer review process before acceptance for publication in order to assure creative content
  • Authors of articles always cite their sources in the form of footnotes or bibliographies

    Examples:

    Journal of Asian Studies

    Psychophysiology

    Social Research

    A note about "peer review." Peer review insures that the research reported in a journal's article is sound and of high quality. Sometimes the term "refereed" is used instead of peer review.

Trade Journal

  • Discusses practical information in industry
  • Contains news, product information, advertising, and trade articles
  • Contains information on current trends in technology
  • Articles usually written by experts in the field for other experts in the field
  • Articles use specialized jargon of the discipline
  • Useful to people in the trade field and to people seeking orientation to a vocation

    Examples:

    Advertising Age

    Independent Banker

    People Management

General Interest Magazines

  • Provides information in a general manner to a broad audience
  • Articles generally written by a member of the editorial staff or a freelance writer
  • Language of articles geared to any educated audience, no subject expertise assumed
  • Articles are often heavily illustrated, generally with photographs
  • No peer review process
  • Sources are sometimes cited, but more often there are no footnotes or bibliography

    Examples:

    Newsweek

    Popular Science

    Psychology Today

Popular Magazine

  • Articles are short and written in simple language with little depth to the content of these articles
  • The purpose is generally to entertain, not necessarily inform
  • Information published in popular magazines is often second-or third-hand
  • The original source of information contained in articles is obscure
  • Articles are written by staff members or freelance writers

    Examples:

    People

    Rolling Stone

    Working Woman

How do you find scholarly journals?

The McQuade Library has many online periodical databases which contain scholarly journal articles. Databases such as EBSCOhost and INFOTRAC allow you to limit your search to peer reviewed or refereed journals.

If you have found an article and are not sure if it is scholarly or not you can find out by consulting the following books located in the Reference Room:

LaGuardia, Cheryl, Magazines for Libraries, 12th ed., New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker. (Ref Z 6941 .K2 2003)

Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory, New York: Bowker, 2003. (Ref Z 6941 .U5 2003)

If you need assistance or require further information please ask a librarian.

The information contained in this brochure was adapted from Working with Faculty to Design Undergraduate Information Literacy Programs: A How-To-Do-It Manual for Librarians by Rosemary Young, New York: Neal Schuman, 1999. (Updated 01/07/04)

Features of a Peer-Reviewed Article (Loyd Sealy Library)

When you are determining whether or not the article you found is a peer-reviewed article, you should consider the following.

Does the article have the following features?

Image of the first page of a peer-reviewed article. These items are highlighted: Been published in a scholarly journal.   An overall serious, thoughtful tone.   More than 10 pages in length (usually, but not always).   An abstract (summary) on the first page.  Organization by headings such as Introduction, Literature Review, and Conclusion.  Citations throughout and a bibliography or reference list at the end.  Credentialed authors, usually affiliated with a research institute or university.

 

Also consider...

  • Is the journal in which you found the article published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society, professional association, or university academic department? Does it describe itself as a peer-reviewed publication? (To know that, check the journal's website). 
  • Did you find a citation for it in one of the  databases that includes scholarly publications? (Academic Search Complete, PsycINFO, etc.)?  Read the database description to see if it includes scholarly publications.
  • In the database, did you limit your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed publications? (See video tutorial below for a demonstration.)
  • Is the topic of the article narrowly focused and explored in depth?
  • Is the article based on either original research or authorities in the field (as opposed to personal opinion)?
  • Is the article written for readers with some prior knowledge of the subject?
  • If your field is social or natural science, is the article divided into sections with headings such as those listed below?
  • Introduction
  • Theory or Background
  • Methods
  • Discussion
  • Literature review
  • Subjects
  • Results
  • Conclusion