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Anth 340: Maya, Aztec, & Inca Civilizations

This guide will help you find and evaluated sources for your research in Anth 340.

Scholarly or Popular journals - what's the difference?

Scholarly Articles

A scholarly article is subjected to a very different publication process in comparison to an article published in a popular journal, such as Newsweek, or Popular Science. If you look at a paper copy of a scholarly journal, there are a few things that you might notice:

  • The author has heavily cited their sources; you will find a long list of "references," "works cited," or a "bibliography" following the article.
  • The scholarly article may begin with an abstract or summary
  • The article will include author's affiliations or credentials at the beginning of the article, or in a footnote or endnote
  • The article will include a publication date.
  • The article will be include a review of other literature that has already been published. Often this section of the article will be titled "Literature Review" or "Review of the Literature," but sometimes it won't be labeled that way.
  • There tend to be few photos or images other than images referred to in the text or tables and graphs depicting research results
  • The article is generally only available for purchase via subscription, although you may have access through the WSU Libraries
  • Contains in-depth research and substantive information
  • Has the potential to create discourse among researchers, fostering communication and enriching the scholarly community

After being received by a journal editor, a scholarly article is submitted to researchers with some expertise in the field.  The researchers, referred to as "peer reviewers," will read the article and provide feedback to the editor regarding the merits of the article. The peer reviewers may recommend that additional research be conducted, or for the article to be revised. The peer reviewers may point out areas of error, and in some cases, may even suggest that the article not be published at all. Generally, the author will have the opportunity to revise the paper, correcting any ambiguous or misleading information. The peer review process is expected to improve the quality of the article and is really an opportunity for the author to receive feedback and suggestions from other researchers.

Popular Articles

A popular article is not peer-reviewed. Generally, the article will be reviewed by an editor, who may suggest changes and updates, but the article is not submitted to outside reviewers. Popular articles have the following attributes:

  • Often accompanied by glossy photos or advertising
  • Provide very few or no references at the end of the article
  • Often offer a good overview of a topic, but do not provide in-depth research
  • May provide the most current information on a given topic

Scholarly Books

The great majority of books in the WSU Libraries are scholarly works. However, there are several exceptions - things like fiction and popular non-fiction related to politics, science, journalism, technology, etc. Here are some things to look for when you are trying to tell if a book is scholarly:

The Publisher: the identity of a books publisher often indicates what kind of book it is. The identity of the publisher is one indicator of whether a book is likely to be scholarly in nature. Scholarly books tend to have scholarly publishers, like the following:

  • University presses (Oxford University Press, Chicago University Press, etc.)
  • Big commercial publishers that specialize in academic titles (Elsevier, Routledge, SAGE, Springer, or Wiley are some examples) 
  • Professional organization publishers like such as American Psychological Association

Other Indicators: When looking at a book to see if it is scholarly, you can use many of the tools you use when evaluating articles. Check to see if you can find the following:

  • Author credentials
  • Substantial works cited lists, bibliographies, or lots of footnotes/endnotes
  • Formal and/or specialized language
  • Should be relatively unbiased (Bias can be hard and perhaps impossible to avoid entirely, but academic books 0should make strong efforts to present the findings of research rather than opinions)
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