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360-700-MS: Arts and Science Integrative Project: Scholarly vs. non-scholarly information

This guide contains Library resources for researching a topic in the arts, sciences, and social sciences. It has been created to support the Arts and Sciences Integrative Project course.

Identifying academic journal articles

There is a huge amount of information available from many different sources for your research. There is also great variety in the quality of the material that you find. Some of the information comes from reliable sources, but other information comes from questionable sources. To produce high-quality research papers, you must rely on information from authoritative sources, such as academic articles. An excellent way to ensure that you are working with authoritative information is to work with academic (also often called "scholarly" or "peer reviewed") sources.

How can you be sure that information that you have found is an academic article? Here are seven guidelines to help you identify one:

1. Authorship

  • The author of the article is an expert in their field. Often, the author’s title and/or qualifications are indicated after their name in the article. This is also true if there are multiple authors of an article.

2. Peer Reviewed

  • The article has undergone the peer-review process. This means that the article that you are reading has been reviewed by a panel of experts in the field (peers of the author), and that the research has been deemed worthy of publication in the journal. Most journal databases will allow you to refine your results to only display articles that have undergone peer review.

3. Bibliography/List of References/Works Cited

  • The article has a bibliography, list of references, or works cited. The author of the article will cite his or her references at the end of the article. This allows the reader to see what information that author has referred to in his or her article. By doing this, the author is giving proper credit to the work or others , but also helping to build their case.

4. Length

  • Generally, the article has more than five pages. The length of the article is important because it indicates to the reader that it is a serious piece of work, and that in-depth research has been done by the author. While there are articles that can be published in academic journals that are 5 pages or less, these do not usually represent in-depth research.

5. Style

  • The writing style is theoretical rather than practical. The theoretical perspective means that a contribution to the existing body of research in the field is being made.

6. Audience

  • The intended audience of the article is scholars, researchers, and other professionals in the field. An academic article is not generally intended for readers outside the subject field.

7. Layout

  • Which the exception of academic work dealing directly with works or art or directly discussing imagery, there are no photos or other images included as part of an academic article. Even when photos are included, they are strictly there to illustrate the research being presented in the work, and will be referenced directly.  Depending on the subject matter, there may be graphs or charts that support the author’s research. Page layouts are usually very plain, and do not include colour embellishments or other design flourishes.
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