Biological sciences: Academic sources

Information and selected resources relevant to biological sciences

What are academic information sources?

Academic or scholarly sources:

  • Are written by experts for other people working or studying in their field
  • Aim to generate new knowledge, or to synthesise or summarise existing knowledge
  • Aim to inform, not entertain
  • Use formal language
  • Include citations and references

Sources which may be scholarly:

  • Research journals
  • Conference papers
  • Theses
  • Some books

Sources which are probably not scholarly:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Trade journals
  • Wikipedia
  • Information written for the general public
  • Information that doesn't include references

Why use scholarly sources?

  • More likely to be accurate and have usually been peer reviewed
  • They may contain specialist knowledge which isn't available elsewhere
  • They provide details of recent research findings

What is peer review?

Peer reviewed articles are evaluated by experts before publication. These experts check that the article:

  • is of a high standard
  • makes a meaningful contribution to the field

Peer reviewed articles are usually published in academic journals or conference proceedings.

View the Quick guide to peer review for more information.

What are primary and review articles?

Primary articles (original research):

  • report research the authors conducted themselves
  • are published in academic journals
  • frequently conform to the IMRAD (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) structure below

Toyosaki, T 'Wineglass model for IMRaD structure' [image/png]. Available at

Fig 1. Toyosaki, T 'Wineglass model for IMRaD structure'

Review articles (secondary sources):

  • summarise previous research
  • are published in academic journals

Further resources

This tutorial will enable you to identify the key features of quality academic sources (approx. 15 minutes).