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INFS 614

This guide provides students in INFS 614 with material for mastering the use of library resources.

About scholarly and technical journals in IA/IS/CS

Magazines and journals take distinct forms based on their purpose and audience. In the case of scholarly journals and technical/trade journals, they have the same audience -- a particular profession or group of people working in the same discipline. Scholarly journals and technical/trade journals are also alike in that the articles within both are typically written by professionals in the discipline. However, these two types of journals differ in terms of purpose. 

  • "Technical journals" and "trade journals" help someone do their job better by providing current news of importance to the profession as well as job postings and ads relevant to the profession.  Examples of technical journals include Network Computing and IEEE Spectrum.


  • The purpose of scholarly journals (also called "research journals") is to report original research -- that is, newly reported research carried out by the person or persons writing the article. Credible scholarly journals use a peer-review process to ensure the quality of their articles. Examples of scholarly journals include Journal of Management Information Systems, Journal of Applied Security Research, and IEEE Transactions on Computers.scholarly-journal-covers


Most reading is now done online, and often the articles are found separately  --not in the context of the journal or magazine in which the article was published. 

  • This can add to the difficulty of distinguishing technical/trade articles from popular articles, because the intended audience may be unclear.
  • Scholarly research articles are easier to identify because they usually follow recognizable formats and explicitly state that they are reporting the authors' research. 
  • However, scholarly research articles may be published by disreputable publishers -- publishers that use poor or no peer-review.

If you would like a more detailed explanation, read on...

  • Articles written for a general audience, even if the topic is serious, do not go through scholarly peer review. You can assume that articles published in magazines for the general public are not peer-reviewed. Such magazines range from popular ones that entertain such as People Weekly to substantial news magazines such as Time or Atlantic Monthly or MacWorld.
  • Articles written for a specific professional audience (such as teachers, business managers, animators, computer scientists) may be scholarly, or they may be technical/trade articles. Technical/trade articles usually do not, but sometimes may, go through a peer review process.
  • The key characteristic of a scholarly article is that it reports original research or original theory. The word "original" means that the author or authors have done the research study or have developed the theory or model that they are reporting. This content is critical for distinguishing scholarly articles from technical/trade articles. While technical/trade articles are very useful for keeping their audience up-to-date about tools, techniques, and news that help them do their jobs better, these articles do not report original research.
  • Some secondary characteristics MUST be found in any scholarly article but may, also, be found in some technical/trade articles. A scholarly article will always have a bibliography, because the author(s) must demonstrate  knowledge of pre-existing relevant research by others and must show how their research contributes to existing knowledge.  However, a technical/trade article may also include a bibliography, so this characteristic (having a bibliography) cannot be used on its own to distinguish technical/trade from scholarly articles.
  • Original research studies tend to have a similar format (although this can vary by discipline) that includes introduction, literature review, methods, results, and discussion. When you see this format, you can assume the article is scholarly. Also, when an author refers to "this study" or "this research," that's a clue that the author is reporting original research. Of course, a bogus article could be written in this format to appear to be scholarly when it's not, so it does matter that the source of the article is a reputable journal or journal website or that you found it using a reputable research database.
  • The easiest way to know that an article is scholarly (though not necessarily peer-reviewed) is to find it using a source that only includes scholarly articles. Research databases for specific disciplines will often include only (or primarily) scholarly articles. For example, PubMed (for health and medicine) and Physical Education Index fall into this category. However, other discipline-specific research databases may contain a mix of scholarly and technical/trade articles, so you'll need to evaluate whether any given article is scholarly or not.
  • Research databases that include articles that range from popular and substantial news articles to scholarly articles -- such as Academic Search Premier in EBSCOhost or Proquest Research Library -- will often include a search option to limit your search to only scholarly articles. Use this feature to eliminate popular articles and save time, but be aware that the search results may include the non-scholarly articles (editorials, opinion pieces) that are sometimes included in scholarly journals; or it may in some other way mis-identify an article as scholarly. You'll need to evaluate whether the article you select actually is scholarly.


What are Peer-Reviewed Articles?

Scholarly peer review is a process to assure the quality of articles in a particular discipline or field of study. Work, activities, decision-making, and problem-solving need to be based on high quality evidence.  

In scholarly peer-review, articles are evaluated by other scholars/specialists who are experts in the specialty/topic of the article.

  • The three or four reviewers of each article may recommend that the article be published as is, published after certain revisions, or not published.
  • The "highest" level of peer review is a "double-blind" review in which the authors don't know who has evaluated their papers and the reviewers don't know whose papers they are reviewing. That ensures a fairer process of review.

Journals that use a peer-review process to select which articles they publish are called "peer-reviewed journals" or "refereed journals."

  • In some scholarly journals, every article (except the editorial or introductory essay by an editor) has gone through peer review.
  • Some scholarly journals may have news items, editorials, and other features that are not peer-reviewed and should not be confused with the peer-reviewed content.

Using peer-reviewed scholarly journals helps you base your work and decisions on credible evidence.

How do I know if an article is peer reviewed?

How can I find out if an article is peer-reviewed?

FIRST. Determine if the article is scholarly. Only scholarly articles are likely to be peer-reviewed, so you can automatically eliminate non-scholarly articles from consideration.

SECOND. Although most articles that publish original research and that are found using professional research databases are likely to be peer-reviewed, here are two ways to determine if a journal is peer-reviewed:

  1. Go to the journal's website and look for the process the journal uses for selecting articles. On the journal's website:
    • look for the "About" link or
    • look for "submission guidelines," "author guidelines," "information for authors" or some other similar option. The author area will typically describe how articles are selected for publication. 
    • For example, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states, "Peer reviewer identities are kept confidential, but author identities are made known to reviewers." Author identities remain anonymous to reviewers for the International Journal of Research and Method in Education: "Authors should prepare and upload two versions of their manuscript. One should be a complete text, while in the second all document information identifying the author should be removed from files to allow them to be sent anonymously to referees." 
  2. Search Cabell's Directories of Publishing Opportunities.

EndNote Click

EndNote Click is a free browser plug-in and web platform that enables one-click access to academic journal articles, across library subscriptions, publisher websites, OA repositories, databases, and search engines.

EndNote Click travels with you as you search and discover journal articles on the web; EndNote Clickworks by bringing the institution's subscriptions to the point of need for the researcher, and across many different platforms, on- and off-campus. If no subscription access is available for an article, EndNote Clickwill try to deliver a free alternative, e.g. an OA version or preprint.

To add EndNote Click to your browser simply go to  to download the browser extension.

A video providing an overview of the service can be watched at


Citation Managers

Citation managers provide you with a method to organize, store, and share your citations and articles for research. These citation managers also integrate with word processing programs to create in-text citations and reference lists. EndNote has a desktop version (available from the library) and an online version (available for free). Zotero is freely available.

  • EndNote - Download information.
  • Endnote - Series of video tutorials on how to use EndNote version 20.
  • Zotero - Directions from Zotero on how to install and use the application.