Monthly Archives: October 2012

Research Therapy: What is a Scholarly Article?

Have you ever wondered exactly what is a scholarly article? And how can you tell if an article you’ve found is scholarly? Watch the following short video and read the information below to answer these questions and more!

Why Can’t I Find Scholarly Sources on My Topic?
If you’re having trouble finding scholarly sources on your topic, you may be running into one of these problems:
Not enough time has passed: it takes time to conduct research, write the scholarly article, and then get it published. If your topic concerns an event that happened recently (in the last year for example), there may not be anything scholarly published on it yet. The Fix: find scholarly articles on broader themes related to your topic. For example, if you wanted to write about the 2012 presidential election, you could find scholarly articles on past presidential elections dealing with aspects that relate to the current election.
Need to try another database: you may be looking in a database that doesn’t have many scholarly articles, or it may not have many articles from the subject area your topic falls in. The Fix: try using a subject-specific database or one of the other resources in the Finding Scholarly Articles section below.
The topic hasn’t been researched: since scholarly articles are the results of research being done by professors and other experts in the field, there may not be scholarly articles on your topic if someone hasn’t yet undertaken the research, found an angle of interest to the field, or found a measurable way to test it. The Fix: find scholarly articles on broader themes related to your topic. For example, if you need a scholarly article for your speech on how to tie a tie, you probably won’t find scholarly articles explaining how to tie a tie, but you may find articles on how men’s neckwear has evolved through history.
Can Books be Scholarly?
Usually when we talk about scholarly sources, we’re talking about scholarly articles. However, books can be scholarly as well. One factor to look at for books is the publisher. Books from university presses (such as University of California Press or Harvard University Press) are more likely to be scholarly, but you should also check that there are references cited in the text and listed at the end and that the language of the book is scholarly.
Is It Peer-Reviewed?
Many scholarly articles are peer-reviewed, which is when the journal’s editor has other researchers in the field review the article before it is published. They evaluate the content and procedures used and recommend whether the article should be published as is, revised, or rejected. Peer-reviewed journals are also known as refereed journals.
To check if the article is peer-reviewed, you can
• Check the About or Focus/Scope section of the journal’s webpage. Many journals will say if they are peer-reviewed on these pages.
• Look the journal up in Ulrich’s to see if it is peer-reviewed. For more information on how to do this, watch the Is This Journal Peer Reviewed? tutorial.
Finding Scholarly Articles
To find scholarly articles, try:
JSTOR or Project Muse, which consist entirely of articles from scholarly journals. JSTOR covers most disciplines while Project Muse focuses on humanities, arts, and social sciences.
• Selecting the Scholarly or Peer Reviewed check box available in many general and subject-specific databases, such as General OneFile or PsycInfo.
• Using Google Scholar instead of Google. You can set up Google Scholar so you can access CSUN resources from off campus.

– Danielle Skaggs

Please tell us what you think about our Research Therapy videos at our survey. Thank you.

Research Therapy: Be a Search Boss

We admit it. Searching a library catalog or database is not always as straightforward as Google. And sometimes, searching Google is frustrating because you get so many questionable results. So how can you find that really great article for your paper? This video will show you some tactics to help get you on your way to being a Super Searcher!

I’m finding too much! I can’t find enough!
If you are overloaded or underloaded with search results, you might want to rethink your search strategy by brainstorming broader or narrower concepts. For example, if your topic for a 5-page paper is gay rights, do you think you could cover everything ever about gay rights in so few pages? If so, you should give me some writing lessons.

searchstrategy image gay marriage
Most likely, with a topic as broad as gay rights, you probably want to focus on something a little more narrow under the umbrella of gay rights, such as gay marriage. If you still feel like there’s still too much on your topic to cover, you might focus in even more. For example, you could specifically look at Prop 8.

Question your assignment
One way to think about your topic is to form it into a question you can answer with your research. This can also help you focus your topic. Here are some examples:

searchstrategy image ask yourself

It might seem frustrating when you have to keep adjusting your search, but that’s exactly what research is, it’s re-searching until you find what you’re looking for. If you feel really stuck, be sure to Ask A Librarian for help.

– Anna Fidgeon

Please tell us what you think about our Research Therapy videos at our survey. Thank you.

The Oviatt Marks Open Access Week

Open AccessInternational Open Access Week:

Today marks the beginning of the 6th annual Open Access Week “celebration.” Starting on October 22 and ending on October 28, the week will be filled with various awareness-raising events across the country and the world to publicize and explain what Open Access does.  At the Oviatt Library we are also raising awareness of Open Access Week by highlighting it in this blog, providing FAQs about Open Access Week and ScholarWorks, by showcasing our Open Access initiative Scholar Spotlight, and by providing a Twitter feed of important information and issues related to Open Access, Copyright and the state of academic publishing.

But why? What’s all the fuss about Open Access? Why should any of us really be that concerned about it?

Generally speaking, as academics, scholars and former students par excellence, we faculty members have been extremely successful in our research. We have been able to make a career of turning curiosity into a virtue and translating our internal visions into reality through our scholarship and creative works. As exemplars of lifelong learning, we are fortunate to have the freedom and institutional encouragement to go wherever our intellect and curiosity take us.

However, on the opposite side of that coin we have also, as part of the RTP process, felt the external push to publish and share our work regardless of the costs. Therein lies the rub.

One of the main casualties of this mix of external and internal motivation has been the relinquishing of copyright control of the very work we create. I am as guilty of this as anyone. While recently signing the copyright agreement with a publisher of an upcoming peer-reviewed journal article, I felt the tension of internal motivation to share my work and the external push to avoid jeopardizing its publication at all costs.

I was of course elated to have my work accepted by a well-respected journal in my field. At the same time, it was dampened by the realization that my work was now, once I signed over my copyrights, no longer in my control. Despite all the effort I took to devise my study, write the draft, and revise it according to uncompensated peer-reviewers, I was still required to relinquish my rights of ownership to the work. All the effort was mine and the peer-reviewers. Yet the publisher reaped the financial and intellectual property rewards, while I was left with a citation for my PIF and a free copy of the article (which I could NOT post online or distribute without their permission).

This is not an isolated event. Tenure track faculty are especially vulnerable to these practices because RTP values publication to such an extent that we are often afraid to jeopardize the publication process. We all want to have long and prosperous careers in our chosen disciplines. Publishing is one of the requirements for this. But at the same time, is this not a ruinous situation in the long-run when the very work and ideas that we generate (often funded by public institutions) becomes the property of proprietary interests?

The result of this one-sided relationship has been immense increases in the cost of accessing the intellectual output of whole segments of academia.  The Oviatt library, for example, is currently unable to provide access to CSUN’s own locally edited and published journal The California Geographer because the database company that hosts it, namely EBSCO, has increased prices to the point that we cannot afford top-tier access. The California Geographer is part of this top-tier access. There is truly a problem when a publicly-funded university is unable to access the very scholarship created by its own faculty, partly because a publisher is exploiting policies created by the university itself.

Below are two charts that show the stark contrasts: on one hand journal prices rose 114%, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 31%, while library expenditures in American Research Libraries dropped from 3.7% of a total university expenditures to just below 2%.

Open Access Chart 1


Open Access Second Chart


Obviously this spells trouble. These trends are unsustainable, even to the Harvards and Princetons of the world. That is why Open Access has been presented as an antidote to the currently ruinous and dysfunctional academic publishing environment.

On a positive note, more and more publishers are starting to cooperate with the Open Access Movement. Major research institutions such as Harvard and Princeton have each developed mandates to ensure Open Access for the scholarship created by their faculty. Many disciplines, especially in Biology, Physics, and Mathematics, have embraced Open Access as the publishing model of the future.

Finally several Federal grant providers, including the NSF and NIH, have also begun to mandate Open Access for all publications stemming from their funding. The result is that Open Access is here to stay and will help to ensure that publicly funded scholarship remains accessible to the public.

Andrew Weiss

Top Five Tips for Making it Through Midterms


girl studying

Awen Photography, 2009

#1 Read effectively. Reading scholarly work is different from reading fiction. In fiction, you want to savor each part of the book, but in scholarly work you want to extract the most important parts of the argument.  As you read, jot down questions and connections to other readings.

#2 Go to your instructor’s office hours.  The whole point of exams is to get you to review and remember all of the course content, so don’t ask, “Will this be on the midterm?” (Profs hate that.)  Instead, ask substantive questions about the material – what’s the difference between these two important, similar concepts? How does this theory apply to a specific case?

Another option is to visit the Learning Resource Center in Bayramian Hall.  You can get feedback on your writing in any subject, or tutoring in Biology, Chemistry, Physical Science, Mathematics, Physics, Philosophy, and Economics.

#3  Stay focused.  Lots of students believe that they’re great at multitasking.  They’re nearly all wrong.  Try studying for 20 solid minutes of focus followed by a 5 minute break – you’ll be more productive than if you tried to do three things at once.

If you really need music to block out noise around you, try something without distracting lyrics. I like Explosions in the Sky.

#4 Drink water.  One study suggests that staying hydrated enhances your performance on exams. (And it’ll help balance out all the caffeine you’re drinking.)

#5 Get some sleepSleeping after studying makes it easier to retain all the information you’ve crammed into your brain.

Good luck!

Laura Wimberley

Research Therapy Takes on the Annotated Bibliography

It’s that time of the semester – papers and other types of research are being assigned. Today we explore a research assignment you might not be familiar with: the annotated bibliography.

Annotations – More Information
Need a little more guidance on what to include in your annotation? The following table provides examples of descriptive and evaluative information you can include in your annotation. You can include both types of information in your annotation.

annotated bib chart

The Oviatt Library also has full sample annotated bibliographies (MLA or APA) and citation guides (MLA or APA) available to help you. We also carry the Chicago Manual of Style Online.

-Danielle Skaggs

Please tell us what you think about our Research Therapy videos at our survey. Thank you.