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Research Orientation: Start Your Research Here

Some definitions, tips, and suggestions to help you get oriented to Library research.

What is an acceptable source?

When it comes to academic assignments, each one is unique. Check carefully to find out what kinds of sources are acceptable.

  • Academic or popular? Do they have to be peer-reviewed?
  • Media - only from a traditional news source or are new forms of publishing (e.g. blogs) acceptable?
  • Have you been asked to find primary sources?
  • Are you restricted by print or electronic quotas?

What Is a Scholarly or Academic Journal?

A journal can be considered scholarly or academic (though not necessarily peer-reviewed) if it conforms to the standards of scholarly publishing. Though not all scholarly articles/journals have all of these earmarks, these are some indicators to look for:

  • on the journal website, it clearly states that it is an academic or scholarly publication
  • the article has footnotes/endnotes and an extensive bibliography
  • the article does not have many illustrations, other than images, charts and graphs which illustrate its findings
  • the article has multiple authors
  • the author(s) has an advanced degree (e.g., PhD) and/or the credentials of each author is listed as well as their institutional affiliation
  • the article title is lengthy, uses technical terms and describes what the article contains
  • the journal title is lengthy and starts with "The Journal of...," "The International...," or contains the words "Quarterly" or "Annual"
  • the journal publisher is a university or scholarly professional organization
  • the sources listed in the bibliography are scholarly (see above)
  • the article begins with an abstract which describes exactly what the reader will find in the text
  • the article says that it is primary research
  • the language of the article is academic and assumes the reader has knowledge in the area of coverage
  • the database lists the journal as "academic" or "scholarly"
  • the article or journal is indexed in a database that only includes scholarly and/or peer-reviewed titles

When in doubt, ask a librarian for assistance in determining whether or not a journal is scholarly or not.

Remember to read your assignment instructions carefully to determine what kinds of sources are acceptable and ask your instructor for clarification if you have any questions.

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Example Titles