Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences: Academic sources

Guide to resources for pharmacy and pharmaceutical sciences

Analyse the quality of your sources

How detailed is the content and how long is it?
Scholarly work is usually several pages long and includes a lot of in-depth information and analysis.

Is there an argument/thesis running through the work?
Are there claims the research is trying to prove, or conclusions and recommendations made if it's a report?

Are the authors' details provided on the source?
Are the authors experts in the field – do they have quality credentials (e.g. Ph.D., M.D., etc.) in relevant disciplines?

Are they associated with a university or college?
Do they have any biases, such as working in the industry they are writing about?

Who published the source? Was it a university or another scholarly institution (e.g. Journal of the American Medical Association)?

If it’s a journal article, was it published in a peer-reviewed journal? Remember to check the status of the journal on Ulrichsweb.
Take the quick guide to peer review for more information on peer review.

Is the publisher objective or biased? Do they want to influence and/or sell to you?
For example, publications from the clean energy industry would be vastly different to those from the mining industry.

Is the source aimed at experts in the field or the general public?

Does the author write as if the reader already knows about the topic? Do they use specialised language and do they write with a serious, informative tone?
Or are they trying to entertain or to sell a product rather than inform?

Publications written for the general public tend not to be scholarly.
With newspapers, magazines, newsletters and websites, the audience is usually the general public.

Examine the title of the source. How detailed is it?

Scholarly sources usually have very specific titles.
For example, "Genetically Modified Crops and Risk Assessment in the UK," is more specific than "Multinational Companies Unite to Fight Bribery."

Is the format plain and simple – lots of writing, not too many images? If images are included, are they used to inform the reader rather than to entertain?

Loading ...

Scholarly and peer reviewed 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, and use formal language
  • Use citations and references

"Scholarly" sources can be:

  • Research journals
  • Conference papers
  • Theses
  • Some books

Peer reviewed (or refereed):

For your assignments, you will often need to use information that is peer reviewed.

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.  

You can find peer reviewed articles via Search and databases. Some databases allow you to limit your search to peer reviewed articles.

Check if a journal is peer reviewed using Ulrichsweb and take the quick guide to peer review for more information.

Popular sources

“Popular Sources” often include:

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Trade journals
  • Websites
  • Wikipedia
  • Journals with very short articles (e.g. one or two pages)

They are aimed at the general public and do not use formal or technical language. They also do not use references, or very few when they do.

Popular sources are usually not considered scholarly, but you can use them in some cases. Make sure to exercise critical judgement, and analyse the quality of all sources you want to use.

Research Skills