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ANT 220: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: What is an academic source?

Guide to help students in ANT 220 complete their first research paper.

What Academic Journals look like

Academic journals are collections of articles written by subject experts. The articles go though a rigorous review process by other experts in the subject before they are approved for publication. Academic journals generally have a subdued cover .
Popular journals will have a colorful cover designed to draw people in. The articles are written by knowledgeable people for the general public. They are published with very little review.
Scholarly Sourves vs Popular Sources A 3 minute video from Kimbel Library recapping the differences between scholarly (academic) and popular sources.

Scholarly Books

Scholarly books look like any other book. Scholarly books are generally distinguished by the author's credentials and the publisher.

Categories of Periodicals

Periodicals are generally classified as either popular or scholarly,  However many instructors and librarians insist that students be aware of the purpose and value of a  third category, trade/professional publications. 

Popular periodicals target general audiences with articles meant to inform, entertain, or persuade. Authors of articles published in popular publications are journalist, free lance or staff writers.  Popular periodical articles are reviewed by staff editors. Popular periodicals are more familiarly known as magazines.

Trade/professional periodicals target those persons employed in a particular industry, occupation or profession and are intended to provide up-to-date information about trends, products, techniques and organizational news.  The articles are written by staff writers or paid authors and are reviewed by the editorial staff of the publisher

Scholarly periodicals target an audience that consists mainly of professional or academic researchers in a particular academic field or discipline.  The content is typically specific to one discipline or academic field and is written by professional or academic researchers in that discipline or field.  Individual articles are reviewed by external reviewers in a blind peer reviewed or refereed process.  Scholarly periodicals are often identified as scholarly or academic or referred journals.  

Why Academic Books/Articles are called Academic

  • Academic journal articles and books are called “Academic” because they are written by people in academia for other people in academia.
  • They are also call “Scholarly” because they are written by scholars for scholars.
  • Journal articles are also call “Peer Reviewed” because each article is reviewed by the peers of the scholar (that is, scholars in the same discipline).
  • Books are reviewed and edited by editors with extensive knowledge of the subject.

Academic (Scholarly, Peer Reviewed) vs Popular Articles: Understanding the Difference

Academic (Scholarly, Peer Reviewed) Articles
·  Are written by professors, researchers or scholars;
·  Are written to inform other scholars of original research or experimentation;
·  Are written in more specialized or technical language;
·  Have footnotes or bibliographies;
·  May contain research findings or data;
·  Are generally available only by subscription;
·  Are lengthy.

Popular Magazine or Newspaper Articles
·  Are written by journalists or reporters;
·  Are written to inform, to persuade, or to entertain;
·  Are intended for a general audience;
·  Usually do not contain bibliographies;
·  Can be purchased at a grocery store;
·  Have glossy covers.

Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Scholarly articles in the sciences follow a particular format. You may not always see every part labeled, but the content will include the following:

ABSTRACT – a summary of the article

INTRODUCTION – a brief explanation of the research topic and why this particular research was performed.

MATERIALS and METHODS – How the research was performed

RESULTS – The results of the research. An explanation of what happened.

DISCUSSION or CONCLUSION – What do the results mean?  What is significant or important of them?  What was learned?

REFERENCES – The research of others that was consulted in the writing of this article.

For more help, see the interactive guide Anatomy of a Scholarly Article, created by NCSU, and the video at right, "How to Read A Scholarly Article" created by Western University.

What Is A Scholarly Article?

Used with permission by Coastal Carolina University under Creative Commons license.