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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Anthropology 399JD: Sustainability, Humans, and Animals: Defining Scholarly Research

Library guide for Fall 2017 ANTH 399JD

The Information Cycle

The many forms of scholarly research

Scholarly research in anthropology is published/documented in many different formats. On this page is a brief list of descriptions of several different formats that you should be aware of when conducting a literature review.

Sources of Scholarly Research:

  • Journal Articles: Publishing original research in a scholarly journal is frequently the ultimate goal of the researcher, and usually required as part of  the tenure process for academic faculty. Therefore, journals are a major source of information about past research on a given topic, and a literature review should usually begin with a search in relevant article databases. Some journals also contain book reviews, or reviews of recent research trends in the field. The Journal Articles sub-page contains more details about the types of journals and article databases that are recommended for anthropology research.
  • Books: Print and e-books continue to be a valuable resource. Some may be methodological or theoretical (handbooks on research methods, textbooks), others may be useful reference sources (encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories), and some may have original research (ie. case studies). Books with original research or scholarly discourse will often have a main title theme, with each chapter contributed by different scholars and representing their specific viewpoint and/or research related to the general theme.
  • Conference Proceedings: Researchers often present their research at a professional organization's or institution's conference, and some conference proceedings (including abstracts of presentations and papers related to the research) are published in print or online. Conference papers (both published and unpublished) may be cited in other scholarly research.
  • Dissertations and Theses: These are documents of research conducted and written by Masters and PhD students. They usually include an extensive and thorough literature review and bibliography. Universities generally keep at least one copy of all of their students' dissertations at their library, and many are now accessible online.
  • Data/Statistics: Research data collected by scholars, agencies and institutions is often available in online data repositories. Often you can download and analyze their data using statistical software, or by using data analysis tools provided by the repository. Many repositories also provide citations to related publications which have used a certain data set. Statistics (data which have already been analyzed) are also frequently available through databases.

Other sources:

  • Gray Literature: Reports, assessments, brochures, and working papers from government agencies, NGOs, non-profit agencies and corporations, often containing very useful information but sometimes difficult to locate. Many times they are not formally published, may temporarily made available online in pdf form, or may only be available upon request to the issuing agency.
  • Archival Documents, News media reports or broadcasts, social media logs, field notes, photographs and video ("Primary Sources"): All may be a useful and important record of events, depending on the research topic. Consult a librarian for suggestions.

Journal types- Peer-reviewed (refereed) vs. not peer reviewed

Peer Reviewed journals (sometimes called Refereed) contain articles which were reviewed by "expert readers" or referees prior to the publication of the material. After reading and evaluating the articles, the referee informs the publisher if the document should be published or if any changes should be made prior to publication. These materials are significant to the research and the literature of most academic fields because they assure readers that the information conveyed meets the standards of professional scholarship established in that particular field.

If a peer review is blind, it means that the identities of authors and reviewers are anonymous during the peer review process, with the intent to minimize favoritism or bias when articles come up for publication.

Many databases allow searchers to limit results to peer reviewed sources. Look for these options either at the start of the search, or in the results display screen (this varies by database). Look for the terms "peer reviewed" or "refereed," and beware the label "scholarly," as some sources (such as trade journals and magazines) might be labeled "scholarly," but are not peer reviewed.

Still not sure whether a particular journal is peer-reviewed? Check the journal's page on the publisher's website. Usually there is a statement about the journal's review process in the instructions for submission and/or the "about this journal" section.