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Assignment | Controversial Topic Research Essay (Pentecost): Academic Sources

ENGL 1302 | Prof. R. Pentecost (Spring 2022)

Venn diagram of tell-tale scholarly attributes: expert author + citations + formal publication + focused topic analysis = scholarly. If a source is missing one or more of those things, it's a good source, probably, but it's not scholarly.Characteristics of Scholarly Articles:

  • Expert authors formally trained & educated in their specific discipline
  • Extensive citations in a works cited list as well as in-text citations
  • They closely discuss a narrow, specific topic rather than providing a general introduction or overview.
  • Formally published by educational or professional institutions

More superficially, articles themselves tend to be lengthy and they have long, descriptive titles (no clickbait!). Their purpose is to inform an already-interested professional audience, therefore, they don't have flashy layouts or graphics.

Does not include:

  • Reviews (i.e. book reviews)
  • "Front Matter," "Back Matter"

Peer-Reviewed/Refereed Articles

Simplified peer-review process

If an article is peer-reviewed, other experts in that field have critically reviewed the article for content (looking at the research process, the conclusions vs the evidence, and so on). They may make suggestions for revision to the process or at least the documentation ("revise and resubmit") before the article is allowed to be published.

This is different from an article being reviewed by a single editor who looks for basic fact-checking and style adherence, and very different from a self-published website popping out a new post.

Recommend Databases to Start With


What about books? Books are scholarly (academic), right?

They can be! Note that a scholarly book is not just any old nonfiction title, but they can be a little harder to distinguish sometimes.

  • Was it published by a university (e.g. Oxford University Press, University of North Carolina Press)? Pretty good odds that it's scholarly.
  • Does it have citations, both in-text and at the end? (It could use footnotes... but the important thing is all the information is very clearly documented as to its original source.)
  • Who's the author? If they're a PhD in the topic of discussion (i.e. an expert), again, it's pretty good odds they've written something scholarly... but still pay attention to the style (is it formal or fun and friendly? again, are there thorough citations?).


Uh, aren't books a lot longer than articles?

Yes, and this can be a good -- no, great thing, because books can spend some time giving you background info that a much shorter article cannot.

Generally speaking, for most of the research you're doing at this lower-division undergrad level, you're reading to get information on your topic with enough context to not misrepresent anything. It is natural to not read a book cover-to-cover in this context. E-books make this even easier with the search-inside functions!

Database Tips

Full Text: not seeing where to read an article? Check your filters for a full-text limiter.
Advanced search: AND = less results, more specific. Example: stress AND college students AND finals
Advanced search: NOT = less results, but not as few as AND. Example, school NOT public.
Advanced Search: OR = more results. Example: college OR university.

Accessing the Databases

Access online library materials through the library databases!

Student ID BadgeBrowse by subject area

To access the databases locked icon (same icon that displays by the LSC-limited access resources) from off-campus, you will be prompted to enter your 14-digit library barcode.

Don't have one yet? Request a barcode number online.

Even More Databases:

Consider which disciplines apply to your specific topic when choosing your databases.

DatabasesResearch Databases (Main Page)

Databases (A-Z List)