The body of scientific knowledge upon which a research paper is based is constructed with several important principles that distinguish it from what we might consider “common knowledge”.
One key principle is that of peer review—the idea that any scientific endeavor is held up to the critical light of other expert opinions before it is nailed to the edifice of Science. Valid scientific journals have a process by which peer review is accomplished. A study submitted for publication is read by several experts in the field who have the power to insist on changes to methodology or interpretation in order to bring the study in line with proper scientific standards. These experts also have the power to reject a study that does not fulfill scientific criteria.
Thus, journal articles, scholarly books, and official government agency reports are the prime sources of information for any scientific paper.
So how can one know if an article is peer-reviewed?
Journals and reports contained in library periodical databases can be assumed to fulfill the criteria of peer review. Journals and reports referenced in peer-reviewed articles can also be safely used. For a review of the characteristics of scholarly peer-reviewed journals, visit Is it Scholarly Identifying Scholarly and Non-Scholarly Sources
Finding Scholarly Works
There is a tremendous amount of valid scientific work published over the last century and more. Finding information specific to your subject can be a challenge.
Here are some strategies to consider
1. Web searches Even though web-only sources are generally inappropriate, the search capabilities of the web can aid tremendously in finding valid sources. Search on Google Scholar (starting from the SCC library) using keywords appropriate to your paper. Browse Wikipedia entries related to your subject and investigate the references used in them.
2. Databases the SCC library allows access to dozens of databases containing millions of journal articles and reports. Use specific databases listed on this guide and others curated by librarians on the library databases website. The key to using these databases effectively is the creative use of keyword searches, which will be covered later in this research guide.