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Art, Design and Architecture Theory

An introduction to library resources and learning skills support for students studying histories and theories of art, design or architecture.

Journals for Theory of Art and Design

What is a journal?

  • Journals are ongoing publications also known as serials or periodicals.
  • Journals allow researchers and scholars to report their findings and ideas. Theories and ideas circulating in contemporary visual culture will be discussed in journal articles. Journal articles are therefore usually considered 'academic' or 'scholarly' sources.
  • Some journals are peer-reviewed or 'refereed'. Articles in these journals have been evaluated by specialists or experts within academia and / or industry.
  • Journal articles often start with an 'abstract' - a brief summary of the article. 
  • The Monash Journals collection also includes some high-quality popular magazines, providing current information and opinions on popular topics for a non-academic audience.
  • You can read more about evaluating a journal article's quality below.
  • Many journals are available through Monash in electronic format, and some of these also have print copies in the Library. There are other journals which are only available in print - browse the shelves on Level 4 of the Caulfield Library's journal section.

Evaluating journal articles - Peer reviewed, academic, scholarly?

The library provides access to thousands of journal articles, both print and electronic. You can also find many articles on the internet, however it can be difficult to gauge the quality of these. It is important to evaluate what you find to ensure you are using acceptable resources.


Key terms

Academic / scholarly

Scholarly/academic sources are written by academics and other experts. They contribute to knowledge in a particular field by sharing new research findings, theories/analyses, or summaries of current knowledge. They are written for an academic audience, not the general public. They should include a list of their references.



A bibliography shows the sources used by the writer and helps trace the 'evolution' of ideas. The reader can examine those sources to evaluate the validity of the conclusions presented. Bibliographies are also a useful source of further references to use when you're writing.


Peer reviewed / refereed

Some journal articles also go through a process called peer-review, where other experts in that field examine and approve the article, and suggest improvements, before it is published. These are often considered of the highest quality due to this rigorous process.

Peer review can be a lengthy process, so peer reviewed commentary on current events may be difficult to locate. Note that there are many high-quality scholarly/academic resources that are not peer-reviewed.


Primary source

A first-hand account from someone who was directly involved. These could be, for example, letters, diaries, court documents, manuscripts, patents, etc. but these may not qualify as a scholarly resource. Check with your lecturer whether primary sources are acceptable.


Assessing sources

Literature that meets these criteria is often academic:

  • the publication is peer reviewed
  • the publication is published / edited by a university or scholarly society
  • the author of the article is from a university or scholarly society
  • the publication reports research
  • the publication contains a bibliography and references other works
  • the publication is written by more than one author
  • the paper was presented at a conference, particularly an international conference, and definitely if the papers were peer reviewed

Articles from these publications are often NOT academic:

  • newspapers and newsletters
  • magazines and trade journals
  • websites and blogs
  • journals published weekly or more frequently (although significant exceptions include Nature and Science)
  • very short articles (eg one or two pages)
  • articles that have no bibliography

BUT, there are no absolute rules, you need to exercise critical judgement.

And while magazines, newspapers and websites are not usually considered ‘academic’ or ‘scholarly’ in this sense, they can often still be useful for your research. Monash Library provides access to many magazines and newspapers, which have been selected because of their high editorial standards and fact-checking processes.


Finding scholarly sources

Your assessment instructions may require you to use information only from scholarly or peer reviewed journals. Here are some tips to find them:

  • Use the Library's Journal Search to search any journals specified by your lecturer.
  • Use the left side-panel filters in Library Search and Library databases to limit your results to peer reviewed material. There is usually a checkbox to show only these resources. Use this function with caution as acceptable scholarly resources may be excluded, not every scholarly source is peer-reviewed.
  • Use Ulrichsweb to check whether a journal title is peer-reviewed. Note that a 'peer-reviewed' journal doesn't mean that every piece of the publication has been peer reviewed, for example, editorial opinion pieces, book reviews, short news articles, etc.
  • Carefully examine each article using the checklist below.


If you need more help, book a 'Meet with a Librarian' session.

Quality analysis checklist

Analyse the references you locate

The more marks in the 'Yes' column, the more likely the article or paper is to be acceptable for academic purposes.

  Yes No

1 Source of Content:

A. Are sources cited or references provided in the source? (i.e. in-text or footnotes and a reference list or bibliography indicating where information and ideas were taken from). A source without references is not a scholarly source.    
B. Is the source an in-depth treatment of its subject (usually several pages long with a lot of detailed information and in-depth analysis)?    
C. Does the source have an argument or claim it’s trying to prove, or a conclusion drawn from the research? Most scholarly sources have a claim they are trying to prove, or a conclusion drawn from the research.    
D. Does the source incorporate original research? Most scholarly sources are a combination of original research and analysis of earlier research, though in some cases they just review, summarise or analyse earlier research.    

2. Information about the publisher of the source:

A. Is the source published by a university, or by a scholarly professional organisation?    
B. If your source is an article, is the journal it was published in peer-reviewed or refereed by other experts in the field?    
C. Is the title of the source descriptive and specific? Scholarly sources usually have more informative titles than non-scholarly sources. An example of a very specific title might be "Understanding the social context of violent and aggressive incidents on an inpatient unit," whereas an example of a general title might be "The Medicated Child."    
D. Is the title of the source specialised? Titles of scholarly sources are usually addressed to specialised audiences.    

3. The authors of the source:

A. Is the author a scholar/expert/specialist in the field? Does the author have an advanced degree in their field? (Journals often provide descriptions of the author's credentials at the start of the source or in a separate "Notes on Contributors" section.)    
B. Is the author affiliated with a university? Scholarly sources are usually written by professors at universities. Authors' affiliations are often listed at the beginning of the source, right after the author's name.    
C. Have the authors declared any conflict of interest or bias? For example, a conflict of interest would be a person who wrote a source on the benefits of smoking, but works for a tobacco company.    

4. The audience of the source:

A. Is the source addressed to other specialists in the field? Scholarly sources are usually addressed to other specialists in the field. This might take the form of assuming the reader knows what the issues, debates, controversies or questions in the field are.    
B. Does the author of the source write as if the reader already knows the basics of the topic? Scholarly sources usually assume familiarity with the topic. This might take the form of mentioning names, titles, or ideas as though the reader already knows who or what they are.    

5. The language and appearance of the source:

A. Is the language of the source specialised? Does it use technical vocabulary or concepts? Scholarly sources usually use specialised or technical language.    
B. Is the tone of the source serious, written to inform or persuade, not to entertain or amuse?     
C. Does the source, and the journal in which it appears, consist mainly of large blocks of text, with few graphics or other visual elements to break it up? Most scholarly sources are primarily text, unless they include graphics whose purpose is to convey information, such as charts and graphs.    
D. Is the format plain and simple?    
E. Are the graphics included to inform rather than entertain?