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Visual Communication Technology: Journals and Magazines

Scholarly Sources

Scholarly Peer-Reviewed Sources

Scholarly journal articles are written by experts, like professors, scientists, or practicing psychologists. They are also written for experts or students, so they are written at a higher level than popular sources, like newspapers and magazines. Scholarly journals use a process call peer review, which means that other experts read and review each article before it is published. 


Beware: Scholarly journals can contain non-scholarly articles!

For example, many scholarly journals publish book reviews and letters to the editor. These are not peer-reviewed, but they will show up in database search results even if you check the option to receive only results from scholarly/academic journals.

Luckily, you can spot these articles easily. They don't cite their sources formally, they don't have formal sections, and they are often very short. Many databases also label these types of articles to make it easier for you.

Spotting Bad Science

Although scholarly journals tend to be more credible than other forms of information (because of the peer review process), that doesn't mean that they are above reproach. There is still a lot of bad science out there! So how do you spot it? The 12 flags below are signs that you may be looking at bad science. 

  1. Sensationalised headlines: at best, news headlines over-simplify scientific findings. At worst, they misrepresent them.
  2. Misinterpreted results: news articles can distort or misinterpret research findings. Whenever possible, find the original research article.
  3. Conflicts of interest: Many companies employ scientists to conduct and publish research. This alone doesn't invalidate the results but it should be kept in mind. 
  4. Correlation & causation: A correlation between variables doesn't mean one causes the other. Be sure to understand the difference.
  5. Unsupported conclusions: Studies should be clear on the facts they prove and which conclusions are unsupported.
  6. Problems with sample size: In trials, the smaller a sample size, the lower the confidence in the results from that sample. Conclusions can still be valid but larger samples often give more representative results.
  7. Unrepresentative samples used: In human trials, subjects are selected that are representative of a larger population.
  8. No control group used: In clinical trials, results from test subjects should be compared to a 'control group' not given the substance being tested.
  9. No blind testing used: to try and prevent bias, subjects should not know if they are in the test or the control group. In 'double blind' testing, even researchers don't know which group subjects are in until after testing.
  10. Selective reporting of data: Also known as 'cherry picking', this involves selecting data from results which supports the conclusion of the research, whilst ignoring those that do not.
  11. Unreplicable results: Results should be replicable by independent research and tested over a wide range of conditions where possible to ensure they are consistent.
  12. Non-peer reviewed material: Peer review is an important part of the scientific process. Research that has not gone through this process is not as reputable and may be flawed.

Source: Knigel Holmes on Nodes of Science