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PSY210 Introduction to Developmental Psychology

This guide helps students find empirical articles for their assignments.

About Scholarly Sources and Primary Sources in Science

Primary sources in science have to:

  • Document original research work. That's called "first disclosure."
  • Include enough information for peers to understand and reproduce the work. This helps with the institution of peer review (please see below for a brief video about the peer review process).
  • Be indexed in a science journal article database like Web of Science, PsycINFO and Scopus.

Most of the time, we consider peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles to be the model primary sources in science.

Peer-reviewed journal articles reporting original research are empirical studies. They are organized in a way that reflects the research process:

  • introduction: statement of the purpose of the paper, and historical background for the research;
  • method: description of how the research work was carried out;
  • results: what was observed, and how it was analyzed;
  • discussion: what are the significance and the interpretation of the findings.

Take a look at this interactive guide to scholarly peer-reviewed articles. It shows all the elements common to empirical studies.

What about scholarly sources?

You are asked to find a scholarly essay. Scholarly sources have much in common with primary sources in the sciences, but the category is broader and less restrictive.

Scholarly essays must:

  • be written by scholars for scholars (look for university affiliation of the authors, and make sure the source is a scholarly journal - use Ulrichsweb to check for academic / scholarly status- or a scholarly book that we call an edited volume);
  • have a reference section that refers to primary and secondary works in the discipline.

Scholarly essays can be:

  • peer-reviewed (but you don't have to check for peer review if you have verified they are scholarly);
  • review articles or other secondary sources such as book chapters that offer a synthesis or a reflection (i.e. not sharing original research but working with other researchers' published findings).

Here are some examples of sources that fulfill - or exceed - all the requirements of scholarly essays, as shown in their Ulrichsweb descriptions:

a scholarly book series record in Ulrichsweb


a peer-reviewed scholarly review journal

Not all scholarly sources have Ulrichsweb entries.

When there is no information in Ulrichsweb, you examine the first page of the source for:

  • the authors' academic credentials (like a Ph.D.)
  • the authors' academic affiliations (like a professor at a university or a researcher at an academic institution)
  • the publisher's scholarly affiliation (often universities have an imprint or a press)

If you are not sure, look through the text of the source and look for:

  • in-text citations that indicate a scholarly use of sources
  • the presence of a References or a Bibliography section
  • the types of sources cited, particularly the quality of journals listed, and their appropriateness

You are looking for:

author affiliations

in-text citations



American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Day, RA, and Gastel, B. (2006). How to write and publish a scientific paper. 6th ed. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.

Comparing Non-Scholarly and Scholarly Resources

  Non-Scholarly Sources (Newspapers, Magazines, etc)

       Scholarly Sources  (including peer-reviewed journals)

  • General public
  • Scholars in that field, and the academic community
  • Journalists; professional writers; persons with a general interest in that topic.
  • No academic affiliation or credentials given
  • Experts in that field (faculty, post-docs, graduate students, etc.)
  • Articles will include author's research affliations
  • Editor working for publisher
  • Editorial board of scholars
  • Peer reviewers who are experts in the field
Citations (Footnotes, Endnotes, etc)
  • References are typically NOT included
  • Includes a bibliography, references, or works cited section.
  • Commercial publisher
  • Scholarly or professional organization, an academic press
Writing Style
  • Assumes readers have no or little knowledge of topic
  • Intended for broad readership
  • Assumes reader has a level of knowledge in the field
  • Uses jargon and technical details related to the field
Other Characteristics
  • Includes advertisements and pictures
  • Glossy presentation
  • Broad subject coverage
  • Text heavy, with few if any images excepts for graphical presentation of data
  • Tables and charts included
  • Few or no advertisements
  • A narrow subject focus

Find Empirical Studies in PsycINFO - When you need them (after the Writing Assignment)

A good starting point is the specialized psychology journal article database called PsycINFO. PsycINFO lets you search all the key research journals in psychology at the same time.

  •  Scroll down and find the Methodology search limit. Select "Empirical Study":

  • Now, scroll up again and use the Thesaurus (first link on the right-hand side beside Advanced Search) to help you get started.  Here is a sample Thesaurus search on the term "attachment":

  • Click on the info page to learn more about any of the terms PsycINFO has suggested.  If you like the term, you can include it in your search by clicking on the box beside it.  You will get all the articles on that concept in the database:

  • When you are ready to search, select the scholarly and peer-reviewed boxes:

search limits

  • Once you have selected the limits, click on Search. Make sure to look at the abstracts of the articles you find.  Often the type of study conducted is mentioned clearly in the abstract, and it will always be listed below the abstract under the Methodology.
  • Don't forget to go back to the definition of the empirical study: If the articles you find don't have the four sections characteristic of original quantitaitve research, they won't meet the needs of the assignment.

Peer Review in 3 Minutes

Is the Journal Peer-Reviewed?

Ulrich's Periodical Directory lets you see whether a journal in which you found your article is scholarly and peer-reviewed. 

Search for the title of the journal in Ulrich's

screen cap of ulrich's search

If the journal is peer-reviewed, you will see a REFEREE'S T-shirt image beside the title:

screen cap of refereed journal symbol