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Research guide for the geosciences.

Undergraduate Seminar (image of globe and pencils)

Overview - Scholarly References

What is a Scholarly Article?

Many students arrive at college without understanding what qualifies as a scholarly article, nor do they understand what peer-reviewed journal articles are.  Once students understand the concepts of what these items are it makes searching content much more meaningful.

When your instructor asks you to find scholarly articles they are wanting you to use resources written by experts in academic or professional fields. These articles serve to provide specialists in a particular field with information about what has been studied or researched on a topic as well as to find bibliographies that point to other relevant sources of information.

What is a Journal and what are Journal Articles?

Journals are academic or scholarly publications in which information relating to a particular academic discipline is published.  Students can most easily relate to this concept by picturing their favorite magazine.  Similar to a magazine, scholarly publications usually come out about once a month on a regular and continual basis.  Also like magazines, each journal is filled with articles that are stand-alone, each with their own content and author(s).  Lastly, they are similar in that all the articles in each of the issues of the journal publication are on a various topics based on some area of interest.  

That is where the similarity ends.  Journals are not magazines because they are professional publications edited and reviewed by other professionals of a similar field.  For example, someone who is a researcher or doctor of occupational therapy performs painstaking research on a topic, collects data, and comes up with some new ideas.  This researcher will want to submit their article to a journal where it will be read by other people who are doing similar research or looking for well tested results.  Before the information will be permitted to be published, individuals with enough expertise to understand the content of the article and a good reputation in the discipline will decide if that information is good information that should be published in their journal or "fake news" that should be rejected.  Editors volunteer for editing services and are not paid by the journal directly.  Their reward usually takes the form of increased reputation in the field and merit in their individual institutions.  In this way there is a higher amount of quality control as well as affluence and influence for the journal where the articles are published while also deterring special interests from controlling content.

What is Peer-review?

Scholarly peer-review is the process of reviewing an author's scholarly work, research, or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field before a paper describing this work is published in a journal or as a book.  Most, but not all, peer-review is unpaid professional refereeing.  Most, but not all, scholarly works are peer-reviewed.

Evaluating Sources

evaluating sources
5 W's of research

Purdue Owl General Guide to Evaluating Sources