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Religious Studies

How do I know if I'm using a scholarly resource?

College professors will usually require some scholarly (also academic, peer-reviewed) sources.

Three things to look for:

  • Was it written by experts? The authors are specialists in their field, list their educational background (e.g. PhD), and are usually affiliated with a university.
  • Is it based on research? The findings are based on a study conducted by the authors, or on a review of other expert literature. There will *always* be a bibliography or works cited list of the research used.
  • Who is the intended audience? Scholarly sources will use complex, expert language and be fairly lengthy. Most academic research is published in peer-reviewed journals or books, not freely available through Google.

Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines

Scholarly Journals vs. Popular Magazines

Scholarly journals are often confused with popular magazines like TimeNewsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. Both are published on a regular schedule (weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) and both consist of short articles on a variety of topics. This chart shows clues that you can look for to determine whether an article comes from a scholarly journal or a popular magazine.

Key TraitsScholarly JournalsPopular Magazine

Length

Long articles with in-depth analysis of a specific topic.

  Short articles with news, opinion, or an overview of a broad topic.

Author

Usually an expert. Name and credentials always provided.

Usually a journalist. The author’s credentials usually not provided.

Format

Articles usually have a structured format with distinct sections, i.e., abstract, review, methodology, results, conclusion, bibliography.

Usually written in continuous text, or in sections that do not follow a common standardized format.

Language

Usually written in very technical language. Expertise in the field may be required to understand it.

Written in non-technical language that any reader can understand.

Illustrations

May include tables of statistics, graphs, maps, or photographs that directly support the text.

 May include eye-catching photos or illustrations that draw attention, but are not necessary to support clear understanding of the text.

Sources

Articles have a bibliography, works cited list, or footnotes to document books, articles, and other sources used by the author.

  Articles may mention sources in the text, but usually do not have a separate bibliography, footnotes, or works cited list.

Examples

American Behavioral Scientist, Criminology, Harvard Business Review, Journal of American History, Journal of Criminal Justice, Nature, Psychological Reports, Science

Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Newsweek, The Nation, National Geographic, The National Review, The New Yorker, Psychology Today, Time, U.S. News & World Report