Your professor wants you to write a paper using articles from peer-reviewed journals (aka scholarly, refereed, or academic journals). What does that mean? Why does it matter?
Scholarly journals are specialized publications that feature original research or analysis written by experts. Most scholarly journals are peer-reviewed or refereed-- that means every article is reviewed by a panel of experts, the author's peers, before it is accepted for publication. Your professor wants you to use scholarly journals because they are considered the most accurate and reliable sources for college-level work. Using scholarly journals is also a good way to learn how experts conduct research and share their findings.
While not all scholarly journals go through the peer-review process, it is usually safe to assume that a peer-reviewed journal is also scholarly.
How do you find scholarly journals? Start with the A-Z Databases section of the library website. The databases listed there can be used to search thousands of journals, magazines, newspapers, and books. When choosing a database, read the description to find out if the database covers journals. Once you choose a database, look for a "peer-reviewed" or "scholarly journals" option on the search page. Choose the "scholarly journals" option to limit your search to show only articles in journals, not in newspapers, magazines, and other publications.
Trade journals are another type of publication that can be confused with scholarly journals. Although they are called journals, trade journals are actually very similar to popular magazines. Most trade journals feature short articles with news, opinion, or analysis of topics relevant to people who work in a particular industry. To make matters more confusing, some trade publications are peer reviewed. Examples or trade journals include Corrections Today, Education Week, and Restaurant Business.
Watch this tutorial to help you understand the difference between popular and scholarly, sometimes called peer-reviewed, sources.