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Clarification of "scholarly article"


What are schlolarly journal articles?
How do I find journal articles?
Why should I use journal articles?
How do I know if something I find online is a scholarly journal article?
How do I cite journal articles that I find online?

What are scholarly journal articles?

Journals are monthly, quarterly, or sometimes even yearly publications that contain up-to-date and specialized articles from the entire range of academic disciplines. Each academic specialty has it own journal (usually several, actually), and publication of one's work in such "peer-reviewed" journals is a necessity for a professor's advancement in the university. By "peer-reviewed" I mean that each article must be carefully examined and vetted by an anonymous (i.e. not known to the author) committee of experts in the field. Journal articles thus contain the most reliable, current, and concise information on a given academic subject. (This is just as true in the sciences, by the way, as it is in the social sciences).

Historians use a very wide variety of journals in their research and writing, everything from thematically specific ones (those that concentrate on national histories, like German History or Russian Review) to all-encompassing journals (like The American Historical Review) that publish historical research from all places and time periods. We also use the journals of other disciplines when it is appropriate to our research.

How do I find journal articles?

There are several ways of finding journal articles relevant for your research. Perhaps the most direct way is to find citations to journal articles in the footnotes of a book. If an author cites an article as evidence for a point that you find particularly interesting, then it may well be profitable to go read that article. You can recognize a citation to an article, because it will always contain a volume number, an article title in quotation marks, and a journal title. Here is an example:

Peter Fritzsche. "Did Weimar Fail?" Journal of Modern History 68 (1996): 629-656.

It is usually necessary, however, to use article indexes. Our library has many of these available online. Click "Article Indexes" from the library's main web page and choose History ("key" or "additional"). To get there directly, click here. Although any of these indexed will help you, by far the most useful index for historical articles in Historical Abstracts. To get there directly, click here.

University of Calgary students should start their search for articles on the Libraries History Resource page. Click the "Find Articles" tab.

Why should I use journal articles?

The answer to this question should be obvious from the context of my description about what journal articles are, but I will give you a more direct explanation. If you want to understand history on more than just a superficial level, then you need to become familiar with how historians present their research, and you need to know how to find the most current research on a given historical question. Journal articles are also generally more focused than books, providing answers to more specific questions. Sometimes this can be frustrating (the subject matter might seem too specific). But it also gives you insight into how historians come up with the generalizations that you read in text books -- they piece together a multitude of smaller stories. A more practical answer is that given our class sizes, the only way of making enough research material available for everyone is to utilize materials that are available online. Most (though not all) journals are now making their publications available online.

How do I know if something I find online is a scholarly journal article?

If you just found it using Google or some other search engine, then chances are very good that what you have found is not journal article. Most journals only provide their publications online as a subscription -- in other words, libraries must pay for the privilege of making these materials available to their own academic community. This means that you generally have to login to your own university library account (or use the terminals on campus) before you will get access to the online articles. (The links I provide above will send you to a login interface if you are reading this from home.) A few journals do make a limited number of their articles freely available online. If you think this is the case with the article that you've found, verify that there is an actual print citation for the article. The name of the journal, the volume, and/or issue number, and the date of publication (on paper) should all be clearly identifiable.

If you something you find online does not meet these criteria then don't use it! Please see my statement about using internet sources on the course syllabus. Use of non-scholarly material will negatively affect your mark.

How do I cite articles that I find online?

Cite the published version only unless the online version does not give you a clear indication of the page numbering. In this case give the standard citation with the URL.