Finding the best scholarly articles for your term papers and research projects

Finding scholarly sourcesNow that you’re in college, have you noticed that your instructors are a lot pickier about how you conduct research for your term papers and research projects? Do they keep mentioning the term “scholarly articles” when they talk about sources? College demands a higher level of thinking and reasoning than you may have gotten used to in high school. You have to show that you’ve reviewed what already exists on your topic but have also arrived at conclusions all on your own. With term paper season in full swing, check out these top tips to get you thinking like a scholarly researcher on your next term paper or research project.

Choosing scholarly sources

A scholarly source is one that has been created by someone from the research community. This includes anyone with a Ph.D. after their name and researchers who are affiliated with a university. Why? Because these are the people who conduct research and write papers about how they conducted their research and what they learned from it. Researchers publish their papers in scholarly journals.

Librarians from California State University, San Marcos said that scholarly sources share certain features including:

  • A higher level of language
  • Academic intent such as a research case study
  • A list of references and/or footnotes

In order to be published in these journals, the article will be put through a process called a “peer review.” The editors of the magazine will send the article to other scholars in the same field (the author’s peers) in order to get their opinion on the article’s quality of scholarship, its relevance to the field of study and its appropriateness for publication in the journal.

Checking out the publication’s credentials will help you know how trustworthy the source is. Questia’s collection of academic journals, for example, offers thousands of articles from some of the world’s leading publishers. You can browse hundreds of academic publications on topics ranging from art and humanities to education, science and law.

Research on the go

Accessing specialized databases from anywhere includes using your mobile devices as explained by Joe Murphy in his May/June 2010 article for Online titled, “Using Mobile Devices FOR Research Smartphones, Databases, and Libraries.” Murphy found that there are several phone apps for research such as AccessMyLibrary, from Gale, a part of Cengage Learning. This will help you locate a nearby library and research its databases.

Murphy added, “A growing number of researchers are engaging mobile devices as search tools. Smartphones, cell phones, and other mobile technologies are now commonly among the first places people turn when seeking information. Increasingly, mobile devices are used as information tools for current awareness as well as for search.” You can access Questia on the go via the Questia app for iPhone and iPad or check out on your tablet device.

A perfect example

A perfect example of a scholarly article, and one that also sheds light on how students use resources, is James P. Purdy’s September 2012 article for First Monday titled, “Why first-year college students select online research resources as their favorite.”

After surveying 523 first-year writing students on how they use research resources, databases and search engines, Purdy found that students seek research methods that are easy to use and understand, offer a variety of articles and are fast. Unfortunately, just because a resource is easy, fast and gives you lots of articles, doesn’t mean that those articles are the best choices for your paper.

It is also important to make sure that the scholarly sources you choose are of a relevant timeliness to your subject matter. For example, a scholarly article on Barack Obama from ten years ago might not be a good choice for your research paper, though a scholarly article on George Washington from ten years ago likely would be. Always keep a researcher’s wits about you as you select your sources.

Now do you see why your instructors have a bias toward scholarly journals as sources for your research projects? They know that if you’ve used these articles as your sources, then your information will be as trustworthy and relevant to the topic as possible. With this inside scoop, you’ll be researching like a pro for your next research paper. Head to Questia now to begin your search for quality, librarian-approved scholarly articles.

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