As a student, you will come across different types of academic texts. Here you can find information on how to recognise scholarly articles and many other publications. You can also read about how the peer review system works.
Publishing and disseminating research are essential parts of the scientific process. The type of publications differs from one discipline to another. In medicine, it is common for researchers to write articles and publish them in scientific journals, while in the humanities, researchers more often write books (monographs) or chapters in anthologies. Other scientific publications include theses, conference papers, and research reports.
Knowing the difference between different research publications makes understanding what you have found when looking for material for your projects easier. It also makes it easier to refer to your sources correctly and to use them in the appropriate context.
Can I find research in non-scholarly publications?
Research results can also be presented in non-scholarly texts and publications. For example
These texts are considered second-hand sources. Sometimes they are written by the researcher and sometimes by others, such as communicators or science journalists. This type of text is often aimed at the general public.
Read more about judging whether a text is scholarly and credible:
Evaluation of sources
Scholarly articles present the results of research studies and are written by researchers and doctoral students. The primary target audience is other researchers. Often the researchers aim to share their research internationally. This means that scholarly articles often
For an article to be considered scholarly, it must
Many scholarly articles follow a standardised format called IMRaD, which stands for
In addition to these sections, references to the material referred to in the article are always included. The article often begins with a short abstract that you can use to decide whether the article is interesting to read in full.
In original articles, researchers present the results of their research. The results should be primary and based on the researcher's or research group's data collection.
In review articles, researchers evaluate other studies and try to summarise the state of knowledge in an area. Review articles can vary in scope, but the focus is often on current literature. In a review article, the researchers have not conducted a study of their own. The results are instead based on a review of other articles.
Review articles sometimes present meta-analyses, which means that the researchers have statistically weighted the results of several other studies. This is common in medicine and in evaluating the effectiveness of drugs or treatments.
Articles that develop theories and methods
In theoretical articles, the researchers have not collected any data but try to develop new theories or methods based on existing theories and research.
A common feature of scholarly articles is that they are critically reviewed by other subject experts (referees) before they are accepted for publication. This is known as peer review. It is usually carried out by one or more researchers in the same field as the authors.
How does the peer review process work?
The review process varies from journal to journal, but a common approach is as follows:
Blind and double-blind review
The review should be as objective as possible and preferably not influenced by personal relationships between the reviewer and the author. To avoid pressure or bias, the review may be "blind" or "double-blind":
A double-blind review is seen as better than a single-blind because the reviewer is not, or to a lesser extent, influenced by bias or preconceptions of the authors as individuals. Double-blind reviews might reduce the risk of discrimination based on gender and ethnicity.
Weaknesses of the peer review system
Since the reviewers are experts in the same field of research as the authors, they might also be competitors. This can make it difficult for reviewers to be impartial and anonymous. The smaller the research field, the more difficult to maintain anonymity. Although the peer review system has flaws, it is accepted as the best review system available today. A movement towards increased review transparency is currently underway to improve the review process.
Open peer review
Some publishers and journals are moving towards a more open review of articles to create increased transparency in the peer review process. The degree of openness may vary between journals but often involves openness in one or more of these three aspects:
Preprints (unreviewed versions of articles)
It is becoming increasingly common for researchers to make available a so-called preprint of their article before it has been reviewed and published in a scholarly journal. This means that the content of this version of the article is scientifically sound but not fact-checked.
Scholarly articles are usually published in scholarly journals by scientific publishers or associations. These journals often focus on a particular subject area and sometimes on a particular geographical region.
On the journal's website, you can find information about the publisher, whether there is an editor (or editorial board) and whether the articles are peer-reviewed.
When searching for articles in databases or the library's search service, you can use features to limit your search to certain types of articles or scholarly journals. In the library search tool, you can select the "Peer-reviewed" filter to get hits only from journals with a peer review system.
Read more about evaluating different sources:
Evaluation of sources
Tools for evaluating journals
Ulrichsweb - information about journals
Ulrichsweb is a service that collects detailed information about journals. Journals with a peer review system are listed in Ulrichsweb as "Refereed". In addition, you will find information about the journal's title, publisher, country, ISSN, format and whether the journal is active or discontinued.
More ways to evaluate journals
There are more ways to assess the quality and impact of journals. These methods are mainly used to compare different journals with each other and to analyse scholarly communication, but they can also be used as a quick way to determine whether a journal is scholarly. If the journal is included in Journal Citation Reports, Scopus Sources or the Norwegian register for scientific journals, it is scholarly.
The transformation of scholarly journals
The publication of scholarly journals has changed a lot over time.
More about open access journals:
Open access journals
Scholarly books and book chapters
Researchers can publish their research in book form in either monographs or anthologies. A monograph is a book with a well-defined subject and often no more than one or two authors. An anthology is a book of stand-alone chapters written by different researchers on different aspects of a broader topic. Anthologies often have one or more editors who compile the content. Publishing in books is common for researchers in the humanities and social sciences.
Usually, there is no peer review of scholarly books, but other things show whether the book is scientific:
In a doctoral level programme, the doctoral student writes a scientific work called a thesis. The doctoral studies lead to a licentiate or doctoral degree. A doctoral degree involves four years of postgraduate stud ies, while a licentiate degree is awarded after two years of postgraduate studies. Approximately eighty percent of all research degrees are doctoral.
There are two different types of doctoral theses:
Conference papers are texts in which researchers present their research to other researchers, often at an early stage of the research process. The written conference contribution complements a talk given by the researcher at a conference. The contribution may resemble a scholarly article, but sometimes it is more of a summary of the lecture. The results presented are often preliminary, and conference papers can thus reflect current and ongoing research.
Conference papers may be published as appendices to scholarly journals or in special conference proceedings. Some conferences peer review papers before publication.
Many conferences also offer the opportunity to participate with a poster presenting a research result or project in text and images. Posters are very brief and not peer-reviewed.
A research report is written by a researcher or research team and presents the results of a study or assignment. The research report can be published either by the institution where the researchers work or by the authority or organisation that commissioned the researchers. You can recognise a report by the fact that it is part of a series of reports or contains the word report in the title. Research reports are rarely peer-reviewed before publication.
In the library's search tool, you can search for various types of publications such as books, journals, articles, theses, and reports. If you are searching in a specific subject area, it may be better to go directly to a subject specific database. Publications published at Umeå University are collected in the university's publication database, DiVA.
Basic course in information search
In our open online course, you will learn how to find scientific articles and other material for your studies.
Basic search techniques
Use different search techniques to perform better searches in the library search tool and other databases.
In-depth search strategies
You can use more in-depth strategies to search for information – for example when writing an essay.
Evaluation of sources
How do you know if a source is scientific? Ask questions about the material!
Do you feel lost among databases and scholarly publications? Visit our drop-in sessions or make an appointment for a tutorial and we will help you. You can also submit short questions via chat or the contact form or ask the staff at the information desk.
Drop-in and lectures for students
Visit our drop-in sessions and ask your questions about information searching and evaluation of sources.
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