Some article databases offer an option to limit your search results to academic journals (sometimes such journals are called "peer reviewed" or "refereed"). However, what typically happens is that you still end up with letters to the editor, shorter news blurbs, or even book reviews mixed in alongside longer, more research-oriented articles.
You can use such limitation features or sort options, but examine the citations in your results list carefully and look for the following characteristics to help sort out what's truly of a scholarly nature:
- Note the title of the journal or source cited . Often so-called scholarly publications begin with Journal of... or have the words Review or Quarterly in them.
- Length of the article is often a tip off something is more research-oriented. Think about it...what's likely to do a better job addressing a topic--a one page article or a ten page article? Longer articles usually are an indication of a more indepth treatment.
- See if the author is affiliated with a university or other research institution. With scholarly articles, the name of an institution of higher learning often follows the author's name.
- Does the description of the article indicate the appearance of charts and graphs? Usually such embellishments accompany scholarly research.
- The ultimate criterion to look for is the inclusion of a bibliography or references. This alone is what makes an article truly scholarly in that the author carefully points to other sources to show what he based his conclusions on. If the full text is available, display it and scroll directly to the last page to see if there is a listing of "Works Cited" or "References".
If there is a particular article you'd like to use, but you still aren't sure, you can also consult Ulrich's Directory of Periodicals, a reference source that provides information about many journals and magazines, and which will definitively note those titles which are peer-reviewed (look for the small referee shirt icon next to the title in results lists).
For more help with locating full text for articles, contact us in person at any campus reference desk, or by email, telephone or IM using our Ask A Librarian service.