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ENGL 1020: English Composition 1020

This guide will help you devise a search strategy from a research question, find resources, and get through that big paper.

Evidence That You Are Reading a Scholarly Publication

Maybe your teacher said academic or peer-reviewed?

page from a journal with sections highlighted and numbered

Some (but perhaps not all) of these things may be present. 

1. The publisher specializes in scholarly publications (such as Sage Publications). You can Google the publisher to find out more.

2. The author or authors are credentialed.

  • Usually, this means the authors are *scholars* in the sense that they research, and write, from research institutions. These authors hail from Northwestern University. Others may be research scientists, or doctors, or be otherwise credentialed. Credentialed means that the authors have done the work to be "provided with...credentials," according to the Oxford English Dictionary. In other words, they have done the academic labor of achieving degrees, compiling and publishing research, submitting papers, going through peer-review, and other forms of professionalization.
  • Peer-Review?
    • A process by which submitted papers like this one are read by experts in the field to determine quality and fit for the journal, edited, and accepted or rejected for publication.
  • Purpose. The author(s) is or are attempting something with this work. They are disseminating knowledge. Not just to anyone, but to other credentialed scholars - their peers. This will inspire conversation, communication, more research, education...in short, progress.

3. There's an abstract.

  • An abstract is a brief summary of the article. While not always present, it is often standard at the head of a scholarly journal article. It helps you understand the author's intentions, methods, and outcomes, and will help you decide if you want to use the article without having to read the whole thing.

4. Keywords. 

  • Not every article will have keywords listed like this on the main page, but most will have them on the database record. 

page of journal featuring literature review

Presence of a Literature Review 

A literature review summarizes and synthesizes the research an author has done to lay the foundation for their work. It helps you, the reader, understand what scholarship the author has consulted, and which scholars have influenced their thinking in which ways. 

page of journal representing methodology

Presence of Methodology Section

If the author conducted a study, they will likely include a section that details the research strategy that they followed to achieve their results. This assures the readers (and their peer reviewers) that they pursued ethical means of research, and outlines the steps they created and followed to get there. It will also inform the reader of the types of methods they chose and why, which can help the reader understand the mechanics of their study and the results. 

references page in journal

Presence of a References Page

Scholarship implies research. A heavy reference page is a good indicator that the author or authors did a fair amount of research to establish credibility and participated in a significant and serious scholarly conversation. While research can take many forms (a scientific study, for example), a published scholarly article won't be complete without evidence that the author or authors consulted with peers and experts to shape the course of their research. This can result in agreement, or argument -- hence the nature of a conversation. When you do college-level writing, you too are participating in the ongoing conversation.