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Information Literacy Modules
  • What is a journal?

    A scholarly journal is published periodically. It is intended for members of a profession and contains:

    • Original research
    • Critical analysis
    • Review of prior research (called a "literature review")

    Occasionally journals will have:

    • Interviews
    • Reviews
    • Editorials
    • Letters to the editor
    • Advertisements

    These items are not peer reviewed.

  • How do I know it's a journal?

    Is this word in the periodical title?

    • Journal
    • Review
    • Studies
    • Research
    • Quarterly
  • How do I know it's a journal?

    On the periodical's website:

    • Is it described as a journal?
    • Is an annual subscription $100 or more?

    Are manuscripts reviewed by scholars?

    • Peer reviewed
    • Double-blind peer reviewed
    • Refereed

    If you're still not sure, search the title in a listing of journals:

  • Did I limit my research to journals?

    Am I using a journal-only database?

    • JSTOR
    • Project Muse
    • Sage Premier

    Am I using an academic search engine (opens in new window)?

  • What terms does the database use for a journal?

    • Academic serial
    • Peer-reviewed, juried, refereed, or research article
    • Scholarly journal

  • What clues are in a journal citation?

    • Multiple contributors
    • Long, descriptive title
    • Journal name
    • Volume and issue numbers
    • Page numbers in the 3- or 4-digit range
    • DOI number

  • How do I evaluate a contributor's authority?

    A contributor's expertise and credentials should relate to your subject. A credible journal author might:

    • Report on his or her own original research
    • Work at a lab doing research in this field
    • Hold a relevant position at a college or university
    • Have an advanced degree in the subject of the article

    Every author has opinions and a worldview that shape his or her treatment of a subject. As you read the journal, ask yourself how the author's views and affiliations might affect the presentation or omission of information.

  • How is a journal article organized?

    Articles that report research studies (e.g., science and social science) are often organized according to this standard format.

    • Abstract
    • Introduction
    • Review of prior scholarship (literature review)
    • Methodology
    • Results
    • Discussion
    • Findings, conclusions
    • Recommendations
    • References
    • Acknowledgments
    • Appendices
  • Does this article have the information I need?

    Read the abstract, discussion and conclusion to understand the author's objectives and conclusions.

    Read the introduction and literature review to understanding the importance of this research.

    • Does this add something new to my research?
  • How do I evaluate the author's data?

    In a paper with original research, does the data support or refute the hypothesis?

    • Are the sample-size and methods appropriate to the goals?
    • How were other variables controlled?
    • Are the results plausibly explained?
    • Does the visual evidence (graphs, charts, etc.) support the text's claims?

  • How do I evaluate the author's argument?

    • Is strong evidence presented to support the claims?
    • Are limitations and viewpoints fully represented and fairly considered?
    • Do the conclusions follow logically from the analysis and discussion?
    • Does this make sense, given what I already know?
    • Has the author represented cited sources accurately?
    • Do the references contribute to the article's credibility?

    Corroborate:Compare information from different media (e.g., magazines, reports, newspapers, blogs) to gather diverse viewpoints.

  • How can I judge the professional importance of this article?

    Articles in traditional peer-reviewed journals are only published after they have been evaluated for rigor and importance by scholars in the same field.

    Open access databases (e.g., PLoS ONE) publish "technically sound papers" and help readers judge the paper's importance to the profession by using article-level metrics:

    • How many times has this paper been cited?
    • How often has it been downloaded?
    • What comments, notes and ratings have been added?
    • What coverage has there been in media and blogs?

  • How do I cite a journal article?

    Gather elements for your citation from the print or digital journal:

    • Author(s)
    • Title
    • Section
    • Pages
    • Journal Name
    • Volume
    • Issue
    • Year