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Research Process

These pages offer an introduction to the research process at a very general level.

Academic Resources

Academic resources, such as journals, academic books, and dissertations, undergo a formal evaluation process before publication. The peer review process is used by most scholarly journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine. This helps to ensure high quality information and accuracy of results. Peer reviewed simply means that the manuscript has been reviewed by experts in the field. Scholarly peer reviewed work and other published research (dissertations, scholarly books, etc.) attempt to add to the body of knowledge. That said, even though an scholarly article has been peer reviewed, it is still important that you critically evaluate it yourself, as some journals differentiate in acceptance standards.

Remember that most of your resources for University work should be scholarly RESEARCH articles. A scholarly journal has additional sections like any other journal: editorials, book reviews, news, letters, etc. These resources are not considered research articles, even though they are published in a scholarly/peer reviewed journal. You will want to make sure that you are focusing your efforts primarily on the original, research-based articles.

Characteristics of scholarly studies:

  • Reference/bibliographic list
  • Defined research question(s)
  • Qualitative, quantitative, or mixed research method
  • Sample(s) gathered from population
  • Uses of measurement instrument to gather data
  • Literature review
  • Inferences made from findings
  • Usually more than a single author
  • Scholarly, academic language
  • High page count
  • Tables and figures of findings

For information about how to limit your database searches to scholarly/peer-journals, see our FAQ below:

How do I find scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles?

Popular Resources

Popular resources do not typically go through the same review process as academic resources; in many cases popular resources are reviewed by a single editor, who may or may not have expertise in the subject area. Popular resources are usually written for a broad audience and do not always use the same, formal language as authors of academic articles.

Examples of popular resources include magazine and newspaper articles, websites, and wikis. Use popular resources to identify the latest trends and issues within your topic, but do not rely heavily on these types of resources.

Characteristics of popular source articles:

  • Uses short sentences and simple language
  • Author reports information from interviews or second hand sources
  • Sometimes the author is not listed or qualifications are not indicated
  • Bibliography or references usually not included
  • Usually illustrated with colorful photographs

Many databases have a search limiter for magazines/newspapers on the Advanced Search screen, as shown below for ProQuest Central.

Screenshot of ProQuest Central Source Type limiter.

Trade Publications

Trade publications are neither considered academic or popular; they are resources written for those who work in a specific industry. These publications tend to publish news, statistics, trends and other information relevant to their industry. Authors can be staff editors, journalists, practitioners or academics in the field. They made be published by trade or professional associations. Articles may be short and may not include references, or not nearly as many references as scholarly journal articles. 

Examples of trade publications include: 

  • AdWeek
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Engineering News Record
  • Management Today

Some databases have a search limiter for trade publications on the Advanced Search screen, as shown below for ProQuest Central.

Look for a Source Type or Publication Type box. Select this limiter if you wish to find only popular sources. Remember NOT to check the scholarly or peer-reviewed journal limiter.

Scholarly vs. Popular Periodicals

Created by the Vanderbilt University's Peabody Library, the short video below will explain the differences between a scholarly and a popular resource.

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