Instructors often ask students to find “scholarly”,
“academic”, or “peer reviewed” sources of information for their
research. These terms all refer to the same type of
information – sources based on in-depth research, and are considered
higher in quality and more reliable for your research.
These sources can range from chapters within books or entire books, or
journal articles, but all have common characteristics that can help you
recognize that type of information.
Produced by experts or researchers in a specialized field or discipline.
Purpose is to present new or unpublished research.
Articles reviewed by experts for scholarly content or quality, or
Written using formal language and structure: abstract,
literature review, methodology, results, conclusion, footnotes, endnotes and/or bibliography.
Articles always cite source information.
May include tables or graphs to support research.
Tips for Reading Scholarly Journal Articles
Every reader developes their own approach to reading scholarly literature, but here are some suggestions:
Scan the article first. Read the abstract, introduction, and conclusions. Determine if it's relevant to your research before you commit to reading it all the way through.
Determine the author's argument. You can often figure this out from the title, but it should be absolutely clear by the end of the introduction.
Consider the methodology. What kind of research did the author do? Is this research sufficient and appropriate for the subject matter?
Look at citations. Remember, scholarly writing is a conversation. The references, generally found after the article text, point you toward the other people involved in the conversation. Track down the referenced articles to learn more.
Take notes. Write down key concepts, even if it's just a sentence or two. This helps to cement the article's findings in your memory, and helps you organize your research.
Keep records of what you have read. Collect citations in a notebook, document, or using citation management software. This way, you'll keep track of what you have read and be ready to properly cite the articles you use in a paper.