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Research 101

Determine Relevancy

Think about how items fit into your argument/claim

Think about what you are trying to argue in your paper, and look at how your sources relate to that argument. You want sources that make your argument stronger. Often they will be sources that support the argument that you are trying to make or that your argument can expand on. Sometimes it is relevant to have sources that refute your argument, however, so you have the opportunity to defend your argument.

Be careful of sources that are on your topic but do not relate to your claims. If the source is merely providing filler, i.e. not moving the argument forward or taking it on an unnecessary tangent, you may not want to use this source.

Skim items to evaluate their relevance

​You should try to have an idea of what a source is arguing before you read the whole item. This will save you time and help you weed out irrelevant sources.

Read the abstract. If your item has an abstract, this is the most important piece for you to use. This will summarize the author's main argument so that you can see how it might relate to your own. 

Use other clues if there is no abstract. Carefully read the title of the item, and see if that gives you an idea of what will be argued in the piece. Read the introduction or conclusion to get a better idea of what the article will say before you read the entire source.


Scholarly Books

Look at the author​

Generally, the authors of scholarly books are going to hold PhDs in their field or are experts in an area of study, and they are often affiliated with a particular university. Look at the author information in the book and see if they seem reputable. You can also search the author online and see if they have a significant Internet presence and find some of the other works they have published.

Consider the publisher 

Generally, the publishers of scholarly books come from prestigious publishers, such as Oxford University Press or University of Chicago Press. If the publisher's name does not stick out to you, you can always search online and see what kind of reputation the company has and what kinds of books they publish.

Look at the book's references

​Most scholarly books will include a list of references at the end of works cited within the book. Normally, scholarly books will have a considerable number of references to other scholarly works.


Peer Reviewed Articles

Look closely at the article

​The peer review process means that other scholars have read and approved of an article before its publication. The peer review process essentially cements an article's status as an accepted scholarly work.This process functions as a form of self-regulation to ensure that things aren't getting published that shouldn't be.

One of the clearest signs of the peer review process is if an article has an accepted date that is separate from its written date, which signifies that the article had to be reviewed after it was written in order to be accepted in the journal.

​Not all peer-reviewed articles will give an accepted date, however. You have to look at the article itself to determine whether it is a scholarly work or not.

  • Look at the author. Scholarly articles are normally written by people with PhDs who are affiliated with a specific university. If you cannot find this out from the article itself, search the author online to see if they have these credentials.
  • Consider the length. If your article is fewer than 5 pages, chances are that this is not a scholarly article. A scholarly article represents a significant amount of work done by the author, and they will normally be around 10 pages or longer depending on the subject area.
  • Look at the references. Almost all scholarly articles cite other academics in their field. Most scholarly articles will have an extensive reference list at the end of the article or in the footnotes that show the author engaging in a dialogue with other scholars.
  • Research the journal. You can search the journal title using the Library's Journals Title search on the homepage and view its online record:

 

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There are also features in the Library Databases that can help you determine if an article is peer reviewed.

This is a screenshot of the Cyclone Search. There is a peer review option on the left hand side. Clicking this will automatically filter out non peer reviewed articles.

 

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The filter name looks similar in the EbscoHost Database:

 

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Then you can use the Journal Titles search to double check if an article you chose came from a peer reviewed journal.