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COMS 101/102: Foundations of Oral Communication: Evaluating Sources

Resource Profile: Scholarly Articles

Photo by allie(tm) at Flickr

How can you tell if a journal article is scholarly?  There are several ways to tell.  Some database search engines (like EBSCOs) allow you to limit your searches to peer reviewed results by checking a box.  Another way is to look at who publishes the journal; often, journals are published by a university press like Johns Hopkins, Duke, or Oxford.  If so, the journal and articles in it are scholarly and peer reviewed.  Another way to decide is to look at the frontmatter in each journal issue (in print or on the journal website).  Often journals will have editorial policies and submission guidelines that tell you whether or not a journal is scholarly.

How are scholarly journal articles different from regular articles?  Scholarly articles always go through a process of blind submission and peer review.  This means that all articles are judged solely on the quality of content and are published only if other experts in a given field decide that the article contributes something worthwhile.  If you are reading an article in a peer-reviewed journal, you can be assured that it's already been looked at by multiple experts, most of whom are established scholars.

Is there a way to tell which journals are better than others?  There are several options you have.  You can search the journal title in WorldCat and see how many libraries worldwide access it.  The more libraries that access it, the more likely the journal is important.  Other journals advertise their impact factor, which is a measure of how often the journal is cited.  Otherwise, ask your professors which journals they think are most important.

What are the features of scholarly journal articles?

  • Often directed toward a narrow audience that has specific reseasrch interests.
  • Always have information cited in text or in footnotes.
  • Provide extensive bibliographies and overviews of existing research.
Remember, scholarly journal articles are just one of many kinds of articles out there.  If you still have questions, ask a librarian or your professor.

Popular or Scholarly?

Evaluating Web Content

How do you know whether a web site is reliable?  What questions should you ask?  

The librarians at California State University - Chico have come up with a handy CRAAP test:

Currency

  • When was the information published?
  • Does your topic require current sources?

Relevance

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • How does the information relate to your research question?

Authority

  • Who is the author and what are their credentials?
  • Are they qualified to write about the topic?

Accuracy

  • Is the source peer-reviewed or refereed?
  •  Are the author’s conclusions supported by evidence?
  • Is the information correct? Can you verify the information elsewhere?

Purpose

  • Does the source appear objective or is it biased?
  • Do the authors make their purpose and motivations clear?
  • Do the authors acknowledge potential conflicts of interest?

Need more guidance? Here is an excellent, detailed guide from UC Berkeley Libraries:

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We are happy to help you with your research!