Scholarly Journals

Written by Brian Pedersen, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies

Why should I bother obtaining articles from scholarly journals?
Why are the articles in scholarly journals so special?
What is peer-review?
Which scholarly journals should I look at?
How do I locate citations for scholarly journal articles?
If I have a citation, how can I locate the actual article?

 

Why should I bother obtaining articles from scholarly journals?
The most reliable, current and detailed information and ideas are found in scholarly journal articles.

Why are the articles in scholarly journals so special?
The articles in scholarly journals are written by recognized experts. These authors must thoroughly document their methods and provide detailed information on their sources. These articles, prior to being published, are peer-reviewed.

What is peer-review?
When authors submit their manuscripts to publications, their work is anonymously reviewed by other experts. These reviewers do not work for the journal. Rather, they are invited by the journal's editor to provide detailed feedback on a manuscript. Based on these reviews, journal editors decide whether to publish the manuscript as an article. This usually happens only after the manuscript's authors have been asked to revise their paper in response to feedback from the reviewers. For the most-prestigious journals, only a minority of the manuscripts submitted by authors are actually published; the majority are rejected. Journals compete to publish the most significant articles and the work of the most-respected authors. This competition promotes high standards.

The peer-review process is not perfect and has been criticized for, among other things, stifling unorthodox approaches and ideas. But given the wide range of journals, there are opportunities for authors to publish all manner of high-quality work. Peer review challenges authors to develop excellent work and provides readers with assurance that published work is of high quality.

Which scholarly journals should I look at?
Perhaps it would be nice if there was one journal that contained every article related to your topic. But the reality is quite the opposite. Articles containing information and ideas concerning certain topics are found in a vast number of journals. Very, very few of these journals contain the exact word or similar terms in the title.

While journals have themes (e.g. forests, economics, pollution) articles related to your topic of interest are likely to be found in journals on seemingly-unrelated themes. A journal about land use planning may contain articles on preserving biodiversity and using energy efficiently. A journal about international politics may contain articles on climate change and invasive species.

How do I locate scholarly journal articles?
Locate a citation using a database from our database list. In some databases, such as Proquest or MLA, you can specify to search for only scholarly/peer-reviewed articles. Other databases only contain scholarly journal articles, while still other databases have citations for both scholarly and non-scholarly journals. When in doubt, ask a reference librarian or use the Ulrich's database for a description of the journal.

I have a citation, but how do I locate the actual article?

  1. Sometimes the article is available as a link (full-text) directly from the database.
  2. If the article is not available in that database, use the E-Journal Finder to see if the article is available full-text in another database.
  3. If the article is not available in full-text in any database, you should next locate any hard-copy (print) copies using the library catalog.
  4. Your last resort is requesting the item through interlibrary loan. ILLiad is the interlibrary loan service for journal articles.