Faculty often tell students to use scholarly (or academic) sources rather than popular ones. This distinction applies most often to the use of articles found in journals, periodicals, and magazines. Many of the same distinctions apply to books. The author’s credentials, the writing style, the presence (or lack) of footnotes, and the type of publisher (university press or mass-market publishing house) should all be looked at when evaluating the quality of a particular book.
Understanding the Peer Review Process
What is peer review? How do articles get peer reviewd? Why is peer reveiw important?
Watch this short video from NC State University Libraries on the peer review process:
Peer Review in Three Minutes
What is a Scholarly Journal?
Scholarly journals are generally published by and for experts. A publication is considered to be peer reviewed if its articles go through an official editorial process that involves review and approval by the author’s peers (people who are experts in the same subject area.) Articles in scholarly journals present new, previously unpublished research. Scholarly sources will almost always include:
Use scholarly journals for highly focused original research.
What is a Popular Magazine?
Articles in popular magazines tend to be written by staff writers or freelance journalists and are geared towards a general audience. While most magazines adhere to editorial standards, articles do not go through a peer review process and rarely contain bibliographic citations. Popular magazines are periodicals that one typically finds at grocery stores, airport newsstands, or bookstores. Use popular magazines for a general overview of current news and opinions, or firsthand accounts of an event.
What is a Trade Publication?
Trade publications focus on a specific profession or trade. Articles in trade magazines cover the interest of skilled laborers, technicians, and artisans. Professional magazines cover the interests of professors, librarians, and members of other fields that require advanced degrees. Subject magazines cover a topic of interest to one or more professions. Use trade magazines for overviews of news and research in a particular field.
Scholarly articles usually fall into one of five major types: empirical studies, review articles theoretical articles, methodological or case studies. A typical article will have an abstract to summarize the article which follows. The article will introduce the problem, present a thesis statement followed by the body/methodology section. If there is raw data, there will be a results section or if not, it could be a section called the findings section. A discussion section interprets the results in light of other studies. The last section is the conclusion which restates the thesis and suggest future research.
An empirical article contains original research. It can be either quantitative or qualitative. In format, it has an introduction (problem statement/purpose) followed by sections covering methods, results and discussion. Usually arranged chronologically.
Review articles evaluate existing published research and shows how current research relates to previous research. In the introduction, the article will define the problem of the research, then summarizes and evaluates previous research. The conclusion usually recommends possible next steps for inquiry.
Theoretical articles either advance a theory or critique a current theory.
Methodological articles either advances or modifies a methodological approach. Uses empirical data
Case studies use an individual or organzation as an illustration of a problem or solution