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Slavic & Eastern European Studies: Quality of references and academic sources

A guide to Slavic Studies resources at Monash University Library, including the Ada Booth Slavic Collection

Academic sources

In researching for essays and other academic assignment tasks, you will usually be looking for relevant information in academic sources. This section explains what an academic source is, and how to identify one, as well as the related concept of peer review.

Academic (or scholarly)

The quality of a work of writing which seeks to clarify, explain and extend concepts belonging to the topic and discipline. An equivalent term is “scholarly”.  Academic works include: journal articles, monographs, books of edited readings, conference papers, working papers and theses.

Peer reviewed (or refereed) articles

Your lecturers will often require that in assignments you use information from academic journal articles that are peer reviewed (an alternative term is “refereed”).  Peer review is a formal quality control process whereby a scholarly article submitted to a journal is evaluated by several recognised experts in that discipline. These “referees” judge whether it makes a sufficient contribution to knowledge in the discipline and is of a sufficient standard to justify publication. Academic book manuscripts and many conference papers are also commonly peer reviewed. 

Some journal databases may allow you to limit your search to just peer reviewed articles.  If you are unsure whether a particular journal is peer-reviewed/refereed, check the database, or ask the Library.

Note: Depending on the discipline, there can be many published scholarly and academic journals and conference papers that are not peer-reviewed,  often due to the typically lengthy process involved.

Examples of non-academic works

Articles from these publications, or with the following characteristics, are often NOT academic:

  • newspapers
  • magazines and trade journals
  • newsletters
  • 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! Exercise critical judgement.  It is often appropriate and necessary to also refer to non-academic publications in an assignment. Be guided by the set requirements for the particular assignment.  If in doubt about the suitability of a particular article for an assignment task, ask your lecturer.

Checklist for identifying an academic article

The following factors are characteristic of academic articles, and especially those that are peer reviewed.

Abstract    The first page of an academic article usually includes an abstract (summary)

Length    They are usually substantial (eg  at least 8 pages)

References   Extensive reference to past research is a key feature of academic works. References are recorded in footnotes or in a reference list at the end of the article.

Author affiliations and qualifications   Does the author hold a position in a university or a recognised research organisation relevant to the discipline?  Author information, often including contact details, is usually included on the first or final page of an article. Often an article has more than one author.  In a monograph of readings there may be a separate section with brief details on the contributors.

Appearance and format    Academic articles are text based, and can include tables, figures and charts, but little other illustration or advertising. The body of the document is divided in to sections such as: Introduction; Literature Review; Methodology; Results; Discussion; Conclusion; References

Voice   Academic works use the technical  language of the particular discipline. The writer assumes some knowledge on the part of the reader.

Publisher    Is the publisher an academic publishing house, university, research organisation, professional body or other recognised authority producing research?

Recommendation   Is it a journal recommended by your lecturer, or included in the unit reading list?