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Field Guide to Research Sources

What type of source did you find? Use this field guide to identify it.

Journal articles

What they are: Articles published in scholarly journals.

Scholarly journals (a.k.a. "academic journals") are similar to magazines, in that they regularly publish new issues. But, unlike the articles in magazines, the articles in scholarly journals are written by scholars, and are meant to be read by other scholars.

Scholarly journals publish various types of articles. All of the following can appear in scholarly journals:

  • Empirical studies
  • Literature reviews (i.e. examinations of existing scholarly sources on a particular subject)
  • Case studies
  • Art criticism, such as literature criticism or film criticism
  • Articles that describe new theories or concepts or methods
  • Meta-analyses
  • Conference proceedings 
  • Letters to the journal
  • Editorials (note that editorials are generally NOT peer-reviewed, even when they are published in peer-reviewed journals)

Some scholarly journals also publish book reviews. For information about book reviews, see the Reviews page of this guide.


What they give you: Information about one narrow topic, and citations to other sources.


How to spot them:

  • There are two titles: the title of the article and the title of the journal. 
  • The author is usually (though not always) affiliated with a university.
  • The article is written in formal academic language.
  • There are citations to other sources.


What they look like in library search results:
Screenshot of an article as in appears in Quest search results


What the full text of an article looks like:
Screenshot of the full text of a journal article