Someday soon, you'll need to find a scholarly journal article for a project or research paper. Awesome. No problem. But, wait a second, what is a "scholarly journal article?"
How is it different from a popular source like a newspaper or magazine article?
Good question! Let's break down the differences.
Scholarly journals enable scholars -- experts in a particular academic field -- to communicate their research with other experts by publishing articles and to stay current by reading about other scholars' work. Consequently, scholarly journals create a community of experts who are all participating in a kind of "conversation" in that academic field.
Rather than a face-to-face conversation, this is a formal conversation, which takes place over months and years through these scholarly articles. The most important part of this long term written conversation - what makes it a "scholarly" conversation - is what's called the "peer review process." The peer review process works like this: in order for a scholar to get published in a scholarly journal, his or her expert peers must first read their work and critique it.
These "peer reviewers" make sure the scholar has made valid arguments, and that he or she has cited appropriate experts in the field to support the argument. This is why you may hear scholarly articles referred to as peer-reviewed articles. These terms are often used interchangeably.
This rigorous evaluation process ensures scholarly work meets a higher standard than popular publications and allows other scholars to rely on these articles for their own research.
So, why is this important for you? First, the information in a scholarly text has been carefully evaluated, so it is more reliable and credible than information in popular sources.
Second, reading scholarly journal articles for your projects can give you insight into professional argumentation and research practices.
Finally, every scholarly text has extensive bibliographies that introduce you to important texts in the field, which can help you extend your research in that area. When you read the articles and books the scholar cited in his or her article, you are taking part in the scholarly conversation -- and getting leads additional sources!
Okay, so where are these scholarly articles hiding? Let's say you're in a research database and you only want scholarly articles. How do you do it? In EBSCO's Academic Search Complete, you check the box for "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" before clicking the search button. This limits the search results to material found in peer-reviewed publications.
Note that some material in these publications, such as book reviews and editorials, may not be peer-reviewed. To make sure, click the article title and check that the document type is an "article" or "journal article." Other research databases have similar interfaces.
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