Scholarly Articles as Sources

Why are articles in scholarly journals such valuable sources? It’s because they present new research on specific research questions, which makes them primary sources. And, when they are secondary sources, they are valuable because they review existing research in a field.

Peer-Reviewed Sources

The most-respected scholarly journals are peer-reviewed, which means that other experts in their field check out each article before it can be published. It’s their responsibility to help guarantee that new material is presented in the context of what is already known, that the methods the researcher used are the right ones, and that the articles contribute to the field.

Peer-reviewed articles are more likely to be credible. Peer-reviewed journal articles are the official scholarly record, which means that if it’s an important development in research, it will probably turn up in a journal article eventually.

Parts of a Scholarly Article

But, of course, the articles you use for your assignments must also be relevant to your research question—not just credible. Reading specific parts of an article can help save you time as you decide whether an article is relevant.

Movie: Guided Tour of Scholarly Articles

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Activity: Parts of a Scholarly Article

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Finding Scholarly Articles

Most scholarly articles are housed in specialized databases. Libraries (public, school, or company) often provide access to scholarly databases by paying a subscription fee for patrons. For instance, OSU Libraries provide access to several hundred databases via its Research Databases List that are made available free to people affiliated with the University. You can search for a journal title or view a list of databases by subject in these databases. For more information, see Specialized Databases.

Databases that aren’t subject-specific are called general databases. Google Scholar is a free general scholarly database available to all who have access to the Internet. For more information, see our section on using Google Scholar.

Tip: Known Article Searching

What if you have a citation for an article you need and now have to find the actual text of the article? Follow these instructions to Access to a Known Journal Article.