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Roots of Contemporary Issues Writing and Citation Guides

Scholarly Journal Articles

Scholars in all academic disciplines publish “scholarly articles” in journals, Journal articles are another kind of secondary source that you will be using for your research. Often, these scholarly articles are peer-reviewed, meaning other scholars read and evaluate them before they are published. This process of evaluation ensures that the journal publishes only top-quality research in the field.

The WSU library provides you access to a range of databases, many of which contain scholarly articles. One such database is JSTOR, which contains journals from the first publication year up to five years before the current year, and also published primary source materials, some of which date back to the 19th century. Another is Project Muse, which also includes a number of scholarly journals that publish in the fields of literature, American studies, education, and ethnic studies.

In JSTOR, be sure to narrow to the item type to “Article,” so you do not get book reviews (usually only 1-3 pages in length). While reviews can be helpful in finding books, you cannot substitute them for full-length scholarly articles for this project. Also, remember to narrow to history journals in the “NARROW BY DISCIPLINE” area.

In Project Muse, after you’ve done your search, limit your results to “Articles” from the “Content Type” (see left side of the results screen) and to history journals by clicking the “History” check box in the “Research Area” limiter space.

One challenge that students often face in looking for journal articles for these projects is that they find a lot of articles published by scholars in other disciplines.  Those can also be confusing or not as helpful for history research papers. One easy way to solve this problem is to filter your search in JSTOR or Project Muse only to journals listed in the discipline or research area of “history.” Another solution is to search a database called Historical Abstracts, which only includes historical secondary sources, and limit your search just to those published in an “academic journal.” Either way, quick filters like these can help you find the best articles much faster!

When searching for a journal article, remember to search for terms using words that scholars might use to describe a topic. Jamaican maroons in the 1700s would not have described themselves as part of the “African diaspora,” but historians now commonly use that term to describe people with a set of similar experiences that included Jamaican maroons. When looking for secondary sources, you have to think like a historian (and, as well see later this semester, when looking for primary sources, you have to think like the people in the period you are studying).