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Academic and Peer-Reviewed Sources

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Your professors will generally ask that you use scholarly sources in your research assignments. Sometimes this means using articles from peer-reviewed journals, other times it will be be your responsibility to decide if the information is coming from reputable academic sources. We’ll cover both scenarios here.

1) Peer-reviewed Journals

2) Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

3) Verifying Peer-review


Peer-reviewed Journals

Some journals require that the articles they publish be peer-reviewed. This means that before the articles appear in the journal, they are reviewed by a panel of experts in the field of study. This panel is tasked with ensuring the article is of good academic quality.

You can limit your search to peer-reviewed articles in most library databases.

Limit to Peer-reviewed Articles
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Scholarly vs. Popular Sources

The majority of the world’s information is written for the general public to enjoy. In fact, most websites, blogs, or Twitter accounts (and even magazine articles and books) are written by fairly ordinary people to be read by other ordinary people. It’s easy to publish your writing through these avenues and there are very few built-in processes to ensure that the information is correct.

This doesn’t mean that only peer-reviewed articles contain good, factual information. It just means that there is potentially greater room for misinformation from popular sources. If you find a source that is not peer-reviewed (or even if it is), you should evaluate it on a basic criteria of scholarly value.

  • Author: Who wrote it? What are their credentials or background? Why is their view important? Do they have any biases that might skew their viewpoint?
  • Audience: Who is it written for? Does the source use specialized vocabulary?
  • Documentation: Does the author use other sources? If so, are they listed in a Reference List or Works Cited? Are these sources scholarly?
  • Publisher: Who published this information? Are they a College/University or scholarly association? Do they have any biases that might skew what they decide to publish?

If you’re not sure about one of your sources, ask your professor. They will be able to provide advice about what level of scholarliness you should look for.

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Verifying Peer-review

You can use a database called Ulrich's Web to make sure the articles from a particular journal are in fact peer-reviewed. Connect to Ulrich's Web.

Search for the Journal Title. To be absolutely sure you're finding the right journal, you can use the ISSN, which is a unique number given to the journal by the publisher.

Ulrich's Web

The single-line entry will indicate if the journal is peer-reviewed (or "refereed") by the referee's jersery icon. You can also learn more about the journal by clicking the title and reading the complete entry.

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