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Introduction to Doing Research

For those new or returning to research, this guide will help you to plan your research projects and use the library more effectively.

Anatomy of a scholarly article

A scholarly, journal article is commonly a research study or in-depth literature review of a topic. 

A table showing the anatomy of a scholarly article. For the text, click the Word document below the graphic/image

How to recognize a scholarly, peer-reviewed article

What is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal article?

Scholarly articles are sometimes "peer-reviewed" or "refereed" because they are evaluated by other scholars or experts in the field before being accepted for publication.  A scholarly article is commonly an experimental or research study, or an in-depth theoretical or literature review. It is usually many more pages than a magazine article.

The clearest and most reliable indicator of a scholarly article is the presence of references or citations. Look for a list of works cited, a reference list, and/or numbered footnotes or endnotes. Citations are not merely a check against plagiarism. They set the article in the context of a scholarly discussion and provide useful suggestions for further research. 

Many of our databases allow you to limit your search to just scholarly articles. This is a useful feature, but it is not 100% accurate in terms of what it includes and what it excludes. You should still check to see if the article has references or citations.

The table below compares some of the differences between magazines (e.g. Psychology Today) and journals (e.g Journal of Abnormal Psychology).

Comparing popular magazines and scholarly journals
  Popular magazines Scholarly journals
Reference list, citations no yes
Appearance flashy cover, photographs, advertisements mostly text, often graphs and charts of data, few ads
Titles short and catchy long and precise
Article length short long
Audience general public students, professionals, researchers
Authors staff writers, journalists practitioners, theorists, educators
Peer-review no yes
Publisher commercial company educational institution or professional organization

How to find scholarly, peer-reviewed articles

Is it scholarly or popular?

A table showing the difference between a scholarly and a popular article. For the text, click the Word document below the graphic/image

Evaluating sources

How can you tell if the information you find is trustworthy? Sometimes information can be unreliable, especially when dealing with online sources. If you're not sure about a source, just ask yourself, is it CRAAP?

The CRAAP Test is a list of questions that can help you more effectively evaluate information:

Currency - the timeliness of the information.

  • When was the information first published?
  • For websites, when was the page last updated?
  • Does this topic require up-to-date information (like medicine and science)?

Relevance - the usefulness of the information to your needs.

  • Does the information answer your research question?
  • Is the information at the right level (not too basic or too advanced)? 
  • Have you considered other possible sources before selecting this one?

Authority - the source of the information.

  • What are the author's credentials/qualifications?
  • Is there an organization sponsoring the research?
  • Does the author provide any contact information?

Accuracy - the reliability and truthfulness of the information.

  • Does the author provide evidence to support his or her claims?
  • Has the information been reviewed by an editor?
  • Is the language and tone neutral and unbiased?

Purpose - the reason the information exists in this format.

  • Is the information meant to inform, entertain, or persuade?
  • Do the authors/sponsors make their purpose/intention clear?
  • Are there political, cultural, religious, or personal biases?

The CRAAP test was developed by staff at Meriam Library, California State University, Chico