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Research and Scholarly Sources

Page history last edited by ted.coopman@... 10 years, 7 months ago

Tutorials and Exercises


Library Tutorials can be found here (especially "5 Ways to find Articles and Books)


Check out this video on finding scholarly sources


This website at Purdue University has a lot of good information on APA and writing annotated bibliographies



Also, http://www.nova.edu/…ry/dils/lessons/apa/


SJSU Library Databases


APA, Annotated Bibliography, and Scholar Sources Workshop (Comm 156i edition)


SJSU 5 Ways to Find Articles and Books Tutorial. Helps you understand how to use the library's databases and catalogue.


SJSU infoPower Tutorial. This tutorial focuses on information literacy and will help you improve your research skills.


SJSU Library Basics Tutorial. Provides an introduction to the SJSU Library.


SJSU Plagiarism Tutorial. This tutorial on plagiarism was developed by the librarians at SJSU.


What makes a Source "scholarly?"


Often students are instructed to use "scholarly" sources for their research papers or other assignments. So, what is a scholarly source?


For general purposes, a scholarly source is one that has been "peer reviewed." The peer review process is the standard way academic research is vetted to ensure that it is accurate and conforms with the accepted norms of whatever the particular discipline or field the research is in. These norms can vary based on variety of factors, which while important to scholars, is beyond the scope of what most students need to know.


The peer review process involves several steps.

First, a paper is submitted to a publication. The author removes all references to her/himself so the reviewers won’t know who wrote the paper. This is known as “blind peer review.” While not all scholarly publications use blind review, it is considered the standard. The purpose of a blind review is to reduce any bias or “pre-judging” based on the identity of the author. This can include negative bias, such as personal conflicts, the dislike or lack of respect of a particular field, discipline, or institution, even gender, racial, or political bias. Conversely, positive bias can occur such as the desire to help students or junior faculty get published or personally knowing the author or sharing some affiliation, or giving the benefit of the doubt to well-known or respected authors. It must be said that there are strong norms in academe against letting bias influence the review process. These controls are primarily to blunt unintentional predispositions for or against an author. I would add that this process also protects the reviewer who may fear retribution from a more powerful or influential researcher, may not want to damage a collegial relationship with a fellow faculty member, or be tempted to curry favor.


Ultimately, the idea is that a paper is judged purely on its own merits.

Second, the editor decides to either accept the paper and send it out to the reviewers who are experts in the subject matter or reject it. Papers are rejected prior to peer review for many reasons, but the most common is that the topics do not fit in with the journals subject, methodological, or theoretical focus. If it is accepted, it is sent out to be reviewed.


Third, the reviewers make comments on the research and recommend to accept the article “as is” (very rare), accept it with revisions that they suggest, or reject it. This information is then relayed back to the author. The author then decides if she/he wishes to resubmit it after making the requested changes. Usually, authors elect to make some changes and reject others. This process can repeat itself several times.

Fourth, once the reviewers and the editor are satisfied with the paper, it is accepted for publication. This process can take a long time, often many months or over a year.


Differences Between Scholarly and General Sources

Most sources are not scholarly. This does not mean that they are inaccurate, bias, or wrong. It just means that they do not have the level of controls to ensure accuracy. Most publications have editors that decide what gets published, who gets to publish, and where in a publication it goes. Editors know who the author is and there may be a variety of factors that influence the decision of what gets published. Moreover, most general publications are funded by advertisers who have their own ideas of what material and perspectives are appropriate. An editor who ignores the wishes of those who pay the bills does so at his/her own peril.


Again, there are many publications that are held in very high regard and in some cases, due to the long lag times between research and publication for scholarly journals, general publications (also known as trade publications) have more up-to-date information. Moreover, scholarly publications have their own bias issues that can effect content. The difference is the control mechanisms that are in place in ensure accuracy.


How to Identify a Scholarly Source

There are some basic ways to identify if a source is scholarly.


First, the most obvious source for scholarly/peer-reviewed material is journals that are sponsored by academic organizations. In Communication, these include the National Communication Association (NCA) and the International Communication Associations (ICA). Most academic organizations do not produce their own publications but contract with Sage and other commercial publishers to publish them.


It is important to note that just because a periodical is listed in NexisLexis, Proquest, or other research databases DOES NOT mean it is peer reviewed!


The easiest way to check if a periodical is peer reviewed is to use Ulrich's Periodicals Directory. Go to the Journals Index pages and look up your journal. Click on the Ulrich's link.


Often scholarly/peer-reviewed material can be found in books. These may be single author texts or what are called "edited volumes" than contain multiple chapters written by different authors. These are harder to judge. Generally speaking hallmarks of scholarly books are:


University Press Publishers: Many major universities have their own publishing houses and usually focus on scholarly books. Examples include the University of Washington Press, University of Chicago Press, etc. (you get the idea). Please note that NOT ALL books published by these presses are scholarly.


Authors with both advanced degrees (Ph.D.) and University affiliation (faculty members): This combined with a university press make for a good bet. Although it is worth noting that some academics have a habit of publishing outside his/her area of expertise!


Finally, if it comes down to (as it often does) of whether or not you get credit for the scholarly source, ask either a librarian or the instructor if a particular item is actually scholarly/peer reviewed.


Where to Find Journal Articles

There are several ways to find journals articles. Note that you will have to log in in order to view restricted databases.


First, if you know the name of the journal you are looking for you can simply plug it into the library search engine. It may be available in electronic form or (horrors!) you might actually have to PHYSICALLY go the library and get it off the shelf. Don’t let this dissuade you, as many journals that cannot be accessed are great sources for information.


Second, you can go the the SJSU Research Topics Page and search under "Communication Studies." You can also find communication related journals under RTVF. To get to all the Comm databases you may select "Communication Studies Cross Research." 



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