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Class objectives

By the end of this class you will...

  1. Be able to explain what a scholarly source is
  2. Have identified the components of a sample article
  3. Reviewed the structure of a sample article
  4. Researched the impact factor of a sample article
  5. Examined the references of a sample article

Scholarly sources

Scholarly sources typically have a few characteristics

  • They are peer-reviewed. (Peer review is a publication process)
  • They are published in scholarly peer-reviewed journals.
  • They are written for an academic audience and use technical language.
  • In the sciences and social sciences, they often follow a predictable format.
    • Abstract, introduction/literature review, methods, results, discussion/conclusion
  • They are generally written by researchers in universities or by professionals in a given field.
  • They should include references from other academic sources.
  • They should have a digital object identifier (DOI). This is usually located on the first page of the article (near the top or bottom)

In the actual functioning of science, a set of procedures whereby one's colleagues in a scientific field evaluate one's contribution in that field. In this sense, peer review is used to determine the publishability of scientific papers, to evaluate research proposals, to assess grant applications, etc.

Peer review. (2009). In A. S. Reber, R. Allen, & E. S. Reber, The Penguin dictionary of psychology (4th ed.). Penguin. Credo Reference:

Primary research studies (i.e. single studies) Secondary research studies (i.e. review articles)

These will report on data gathered and analyzed as part of a single original experiment. There will be...

  • Peer-reviewed

  • A (relatively) predictable format

    • Abstract, introduction/literature, method, results, discussion/conclusion.

  • A hypothesis or research question (in the introduction)

  • A methods section in which the researchers describe how they have collected and analyzed data.

  • Quantitative and/or qualitative data that demonstrate the findings.

  • Conclusions about the experiment and its value to the scientific field.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

A review article will take a number of empirical articles, and perform some analysis.

  • These articles are peer-reviewed.
  • Do not follow a predictable format


  • Literature Reviews give a broad overview of a given topic at a moment in time. 

  • Systematic Reviews are a rigorous review of primary research articles, with explicit inclusion criteria. They're often used in the Health Sciences to gauge the effectiveness of specific interventions. Systematic reviews will discuss their inclusion criteria, search methods, and occasionally their search statement in the article. 

  • Meta-Analyses are statistical syntheses of collected data, as part of a systematic review

Activity: Evaluating scholarly sources

You are going to analyze an example article and publication in preparation for your class assignment. You can use any strategy you like to answer the following questions.

Step 1: Open the following sample article

Step 2: In pairs or groups of three, find the answers to the following questions.

  • Who are the authors? What are their credentials, background, and places of work?
  • When was this article published?
  • Where was this article published? What is the volume and issue (often shown as Vol. and No.)
  • Is this a peer-reviewed paper?
  • Can you locate the article DOI?

In your duo or trio, dig a little deeper into this article and answer the following questions. We will have a class discussion about your answers.

  • Is this a peer-reviewed publication?
  • What is the impact factor of this journal? Try searching the publication online with "impact factor".
  • Who is the intended audience of this article?
  • What is this article about?
  • Does this paper have a robust reference section?
  • Is the format of this paper standard (abstract, intro, lit review/background, methods, results, discussion, conclusion) or is it a non-standard format?
  • What kinds of charts and tables are in this paper? Are they professional looking?

Finding scholarly sources through the library

Trying searching the title of the article in LibrarySearch

Searching the MRU LibrarySearch Part 1


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Erik Christiansen

Phone: 403.440.5168
Office: EL4423C