In the research process, it is critical to understand and recognize the difference between scholarly information sources and "popular" information sources.
I need to
- recognize scholarly sources
- recognize popular sources
- understand what my professor means by “peer-reviewed” sources
- learn how to search databases for peer-reviewed sources
In general, scholary sources tend to be...
- written for an audience of specialists
- written using a specialized vocabulary
- longer articles providing in-depth analysis
- more structured, and may includes sections such as the Abstract, Literature Review, and Conclusion
- reviewed and edited by experts in the field
- illustrated with tables, charts, or graphs
In general popular sources tend to be...
- written for a general audience
- written using non-technical language anyone can understand
- shorter articles offering a broader overview
- without a formal structure
- reviewed and edited by staff writers, not necessarily experts in the field
- illustrated with color photographs, often for the purpose of advertising
Peer Review is the process by which an article is evaluated by a group of specialists in its given field prior to being "accepted" for publication.
For example, The Quarterly Review of Biology is peer-reviewed. Newsweek is not peer-reviewed.
Typically, if your professor refers to scholarly, academic, or refereed journals, he or she is referring to journals that are peer-reviewed.
Many indexes and databases include a field in which the journal's scholarly or peer-review status is defined.
For example, look at the following article citation, taken directly from the Humanities Abstracts database. You'll see that The Journal of the Early Republic is clearly classified as peer-reviewed.
A number of the databases available through the Grinnell College Libraries allow you to limit your searches strictly to peer-reviewed or scholarly articles.
Some of the other databases which include this feature are:
Please remember that the librarians at Burling Library and Kistle Science Library are happy to assist you in locating and identifying appropriate journal articles.
Return to Doing Research