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Using the University of Chicago Library

Guide for students at University of Chicago Woodlawn Charter Schools

Popular vs. Scholarly Resources

Academic Journals

Articles published in academic journals are often the best to use for your research.  Academic journal articles are produced by scholors or experts in a particular field. The articles are based on extensive research, and will usually contains bibliography, footnotes, or citations listing the resources used to support he arguement made in the paper.  In many cases, the articles are reviewed and vetted before publication by a group of scholars in that field (peer-reviewed). 

Popular Sources

Popular sources include publications such as newspapers or magazines. Articles in popular sources are not based on scholarly research and in most instances will not contain bibliographies or footnotes.  The publications usually contain advertisements and lots of images.  While popular sources can be helpful in some research topices, you should select them with a critical eye.

Evaluating a Journal for Quality

A journal is considered more rigorous and scholarly if it is peer reviewed. Look for the following to identify a peer-reviewed journal: 

  • The journal is published or sponsored by a professional scholarly society or association (e.g., the American Psychological Association) or by a university program (e.g., Critical Inquiry) or department (e.g., Social Science History).
  • There is a list of reviewers or an editorial board on the web site (example), inside the front cover, back cover, or on the first few pages (example).  The list should include scholars from diverse institutions.

Other indications of importance to a field:

  • Availability online in well-regarded archives such as JSTOR or Project Muse.
  • If a journal is indexed in an important index for your field (which are they? check a subject guide).

Something to keep in mind:

Some journal indexes allow you to narrow your search to articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

Parts of an Article

Abstract: An abstract is a brief summary of the main points of an argument. Some journal articles appear with abstracts on the first page. Read the abstract, and ask yourself, does this article suit my needs? Do I understand the abstract? Is this article too advanced, or not advanced enough?

·        Methods: Articles in the sciences and social sciences typically include descriptions of the research methodology. Is the methodology clearly described?

 Conflict of interest statements: Some research findings, most often in the sciences, include conflict of interest statements. For instance, these statements may include information about corporate funding sources for the research. Is the conflict of interest serious enough to encourage you to seek other articles?

Conclusion: Many articles end with a conclusion that summarizes the author’s findings, synthesizes the article’s argument, and (sometimes) offers recommendations for future research. Is the article’s conclusion supported by the research presented in the body of the article?

Notes or citations: Scholarly articles include footnotes, endnotes, or other citations for the works quoted, consulted, and referenced in the course of the author’s research. Does the article include citations? Do the citations provide support for the argument?

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