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UMGC Effective Writing Center Academic Research: What Instructors Want (And How to Find It)

Why Peer-Reviewed Journals? Are They Really Better?


Yes, they are. Articles in academic journals are written by credentialed professionals in that field who are often at the forefront of knowledge and research in their disciplines. In contrast, articles in magazines are written by staff journalists who usually do not possess specialized training or degrees in the many topics they may report on.


Academic journals rarely take any form of paid advertising. Instead, most of these journals are supported by academic institutions, research institutes, library subscriptions and forms of non-commercial revenue. By avoiding commercial advertising, these publications also have a better chance of avoiding conflicts of interest and have more freedom when it comes to the topics covered and how those topics are treated. On the other hand, advertising-supported magazines can experience varying degrees of control over their editorial process by advertisers and other commercial interests.

Image Still for Video: Why Peer Reviewed Academic Journal Articles Not Magazines?

Peer Review

Finally, in most academic journals, before an article is published it first must undergo a rigorous process of peer review. During this process, the article is sent out (with the author's name and affiliations deleted) to a review board of experts in the specific discipline area for which the article is written. This board of peer experts (who remain anonymous to the original author) provide criticism, corrections, and suggestions to the article that must be made before it is published. This review board can also deny an article's publication. This process helps to insure that only the most credible and important information sees publication. In contrast, magazine articles are usually reviewed only during a fact-checking process. 

How to Find Sources Using UMGC Library OneSearch

The UMGC Library provides a helpful research tool: OneSearch.  It allows you to find scholarly articles, books, and/or other research resources via a single search engine. You can simultaneously search most of the databases to which the UMGC Library subscribes, either directly or as additional resources.

Different from Google

Although UMGC Library OneSearch is a single search engine, it does not search for information in the same way that Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., do.  In popular search engines, it is typical, though not necessary, to ask a question.  

Example: What country won the most gold medals at Sochi 2014?

Academic search engines work differently.  They require that you search them using key terms separated by the Boolean Operators known as "AND," "OR," and "NOT." 

Image Still for Video: Using Boolean Search Commands

How Do I Use Boolean Operators?

To make the research process easier, the UMGC Library has created a video to explain how to use the operators AND, OR, and NOT.

You can research using any of the following word combinations if you wanted to learn about the number of gold medals won at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games:

  • Sochi 2014 AND gold medals
  • Sochi AND 2014 AND medals AND gold

If I was interested in all the medals, I could expand my search in the following ways:

  • Sochi 2014 AND medals
  • Sochi 2014 AND gold medals OR silver medals OR bronze medals

Also, I could customize my search to include or not to include certain countries:

  • Sochi 2014 AND medals AND United States AND Russia
  • Sochi 2014 AND medals NOT United States

More Information

For additional information, the UMGC Library has created their own Simple Strategies for Effective Database Searches.

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