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Academic sources

Academic sources: an overview

Academic sources


Academic sources take many forms. You'll need to engage with a breadth of literature in order to support your own arguments and evidence your theories. To do that you'll need to look further afield than your resource lists and the Library catalogue...

Accessing academic sources (click to reveal)

Journal articles

One of the most common academic sources is the journal article. Researchers publish their research in academic journals which usually cover a specific discipline. Some journals have stronger reputations and more rigorous editorial controls than others. 

Peer review

Peer review process

Most good quality journals (and even some bad ones) employ a process called peer-review whereby submitted articles are vetted by a panel of fellow experts in the field. The peer-review panel may demand extensive re-writes of an article to bring it to an acceptable standard for publication. Flaws in the methodology may be highlighted and the author will then have to address these in the text. The result should be that the published work is reliable and of a high standard, and this is usually the case (though not always, as this blog post on the problems with Peer Review explains). Many databases will let you filter to exclude work that hasn't been peer-reviewed.

Finding articles

You could read every journal that's published on your subject, but that's probably a lot of journals. Fortunately, there are databases which catalogue the contents of a selection of journals. You can search these databases to find the articles that will be of use to you.

How to read an article

Where do you start when looking at academic literature? How can you successfully engage with the literature you find? This bitesized tutorial explores the structure of academic articles, shows where to look to check the validity of findings, and offers tips for navigating online texts.

Making sense of academic sources

Academic literature takes many forms. What constitute scholarly sources of information, and how do we choose between them? In this, the first of our "Let's get critical" critical reading theme, we get to grips with the principles of evaluating information and work out how to determine their suitability.

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What's in a database?

What's in a database?

iconYou're almost certainly going to have to search a database at some point. Most of these databases are paid for by the Library. The majority will index articles from specific journals within a given subject-area, but some take in a broader multidisciplinary selection. 

Here's a quick overview of the types available:

Some databases are searching the full text of the indexed documents, and may even make those full texts available to you. JSTOR is a multidisciplinary example of such an archive.

Most databases do not hold, or even search, the full text of a document. Rather they are an index of catalogue records, usually consisting of the article's title, authors, date, publication source (e.g. journal, volumeissue), an abstract summary, and uniformly applied subject headings to aid searching. Just because an article is indexed in a database does not mean that we necessarily have access to it...

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dbtext for use with all that other stuff

Journal coverage

Different databases index different journals. You may need to do searches in more than one place. Click the tabs below to work through an example:

All 12 journals

Let's imagine we're doing a course called Chocolate Studies, and that there are 12 main journals in this discipline. When we're doing our research, we could search each of those journals independently, but that would take a long time. Databases exist to allow us to search several journals at once.

10 of the 12 journals

Ten of the major journals are indexed in Web of Sweeties*, which also covers a breadth of material on other subjects. It's an improvement on having to search through 12 separate journals, but we're missing some important titles.

not a real database

9 of the 12 journals

Nine of the journals (including the two that weren't in Web of Sweeties) are indexed in ChocBase*, which specialises in our discipline of interest. Neither database holds all the important journals, but we can cover those 12 journals by searching both databases separately.

also not a real database

8 of the 12 journals

The Library only subscribes to eight of the 12 journals. The databases are searching four titles we don't own, and the full text will not be directly available in those cases.

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Accessing texts

Find It @ YorkClicking Find It @ York in a database will check YorSearch to see if we have a copy of what you've found.

If we don't have it...

We can't afford to buy a copy of everything ever. If we don't have what you need, here are some options: