Skip to main content
site header image

Research Starter: Psychology

Journal Databases

Try these databases to find journal articles:

How to identify a scholarly journal article

Most scholarly, peer-reviewed journal articles have the following characteristics. Ask yourself these questions and look at the article to check if the way it looks and is written indicates it is a reliable, accurate source:

  • Is it written by a scholar? Check for clues that indicate the authors are scholars/researchers:
    • Is their name followed by a Ph.D. or M.D.?
    • Are they affiliated with a hospital, university or other knowledge-based organization?
  • What is it about? Who's the intended audience? Look to see if the article's intention is to provide original research that furthers the discipline's knowledge of the topic:
    • Are the topic and scope of the article narrowly defined with a theoretical and/or technical focus (scholarly), centered on professional practice (trade), or broad and general (popular)?
    • Does the content appear to be research-based and analytical with the goal of creating new knowledge in the field of study? Or is the intention to merely persuade, entertain, inform, or report?
  • How is it structured? Scan the article's length, formatting, and headings or sections:
    • Does the structure indicate it's a scientific research study? That is, does it have some features such as an abstract followed by headings/sections indicating the study's purpose, design, results and discussion of findings?
    • Is it longer than 5 pages? 
    • In general, the less structured it is the more it is likely NOT a scholarly source 
  • How is it written? Look at the language, tone, and point of view of the article:
    • Does the language appear to be formal and technical (indicating a scholarly, peer-reviewed source), professional jargon (indicating a trade source), or plain and simple (indicating popular source)?
    • Is the tone and language of the article something the general public would be able to understand, or does it require a higher level of education and knowledge?
    • A scholarly, peer-reviewed article will have an objective point of view and logical, argumentative tone with many citations to published research that support its claims.
  • What's the publication type? Look for clues that tell you the article is published in a scholarly/academic journal:
    • Go to the website or description and read the "About" or "Aims and Scope" sections. Is the primary purpose to publish new knowledge and original research (scholarly), provide news and information relevant to professional practice (trade), or entertain, persuade, and inform (popular)?
    • Is the visual appearance of the website plain, with minimal advertising and color? Or is it colorful and flashy with a lot of graphics and advertisements?

How to read a scholarly journal

There a many ways to read a research article, though most researchers don't begin by reading an article from start to finish like they might a book. The following steps will help you navigate a research article:

  1. First read the title and abstract to get an overview of the research. These two portions of the article can help determine whether the article is relevant and sufficiently important to your research.
  2. Then read the introduction to get a deeper understanding of the research's context. This section typically discusses previous work on the topic or related areas. 
  3. Do a quick scan of the results, including the tables and figures. Do the key variables make sense to you?
  4. Take a look at the discussion section of the paper -- focus on the first and last paragraphs right now. What are the major findings? Do the researchers recommend further or follow-up studies?
  5. Finally, read the methods. What is the methodology? 
  6. Go back and reread the results and discussion in more detail. 

Take notes while you read each section; write down any questions you have or parts you don't understand. You can go to dictionaries or encyclopedias to help explain them. 


This video provides further instruction on reading scholarly articles:

Google Scholar

Google Scholar may be able to expand the number of articles you can get full-text. Just remember that, like "regular" Google, your search results have a better chance of being irrelevant because you're relying on a computer instead of a real person to determine relevancy.