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ENC 1102: Natural Sciences Resource Guide: Journal Articles

Resources to help you complete your ENC 1102 assignments. Use this guide for Weeks 5-12 assignments.

Key Databases

Is it peer reviewed/refereed?

Q. What is peer review?

A. For an article to be published in an academic journal, it must be examined by experts in the field. They determine whether the information is reliable, well researched, and of interest to others who study that subject. For a more detailed explaination, watch the video above, or check out the Finding Articles Tutorial.

Q. Which journals have peer-reviewed articles?

A. To find out if a journal is peer reviewed (also known as refereed), you can use the Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory. Search by journal title, ISSN, etc. and look for the tiny referee shirt as an indicator.

Q. How do I know if an article is peer-reviewed?

A. Not every article in a peer-reviewed journal is a peer-reviewed article. Some scholarly journals also publish letters, conference notes, news items, etc. Look at the full text of the article you're interested in. A peer-reviewed article will show a string of dates, usually either near the abstract or at the bottom of the 1st page of the PDF version or at the end of the article, to indicate that the article was reviewed and usually revised.

Example: Manuscript received November 9, 2007; revised March 5, 2008. Published September 4, 2008.

Article Types

What type of article are you looking for or looking at?

The categories are not rigid, and some of them overlap.  Here are some hints to help identify characteristics of an article:

Research articles are typically published in a journal and are highly likely to have been peer-reviewed. They are structured like lab reports, with sections for:  the abstract or summary of the project, introduction and literature review, hypothesis or experimental question, method or process used, data gathered,  the analysis or interpretation of the data, and conclusions. Their purpose is to serve as the primary (first) report of research, and they are used by practitioners as a theoretical base for their applications. Research articles contain highly technical language for an experienced or educated audience. Not every article in a peer-reviewed journal is guaranteed to be peer-reviewed.  Many academic or research journals also have editorials, comments, conference summaries, and reviews.

Peer reviewed (or refereed) articles are usually (but not always) research articles. They are frequently, but not always, identified by string of acceptance dates. When you see that time passed between submission of the draft and final acceptance, you know that the author’s peers reviewed the article for sense and value of the contribution, and submitted suggestions to make the article stronger.

Review articles can identify trends, replication of results, and hypotheses that need further research and testing. They are intended for knowledgeable audiences, but they can be helpful to readers who are new to a topic because they summarize a lot of previous research and they may point out which of those articles are the most significant contributions to new knowledge in the field.

Technical reports are structured like case studies: or "how I solved this problem." They typically cite research articles as the basis for methods chosen.  They serve as a project report to the funding source, which may be a federal, state, or local government agency.  Tech reports are not always available; they may be kept proprietary, especially if client is a non-governmental corporation.

Conference papers are usually reports on "work in progress" and may be incomplete.  In some cases the paper may be peer-reviewed, and sometimes only the abstract is peer-reviewed.  Conference papers might be published in conference proceedings, or the authors may wait to publish the complete version of the article in a peer-reviewed journal.

Trade publications are frequently called magazines or journals.  They serve to keep practitioners up to date about products, meetings, and research summaries.They are structured informally, and they contain lots of advertising and news.  Articles are brief and usually do not have references at the end. Example:  C&E News

Popular articles are found in magazines and news sources, and are intended for non-specialist audiences.

Websites, press releases, encyclopedia entries, and other formats may be intended for either popular or specialist audiences. These items are never the original report of research, though.

Is it a primary source?

Q.   What is a primary source?

A.   Primary documents are the original source materials.

In the sciences lab data, lab notebooks, and original test protocols are considered primary documents.  Source code and release notes, field observation notes or images are also primary documents.

Journal articles are primary or first reports of research.  Books, encyclopedias, and news articles are secondary (or later) sources because they describe what you will find in the primary sources.

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