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NHECHS - HCCS Library Instruction: Focus on Professional and Scholarly Sources

This guide compiles instructional materials selected by HCC Librarian Jenn B. Stidham for library instructions sessions designed for North Houston Early College High School students.

Professional/Trade and Scholarly Sources

Professional and Scholarly Sources

Trade SourcesFor this section, I am going to focus on just two types of information - Professional and Scholarly. This is because these are the categories most likely to be unfamiliar to you and those that you will need to become familiar with for college-level research. Remember these from the last page? That's ok, I'll repeat the main points below!

Professional/Trade – Professional magazine articles (such as Plastic Surgical Nursing and Music Teacher) are meant for people in a particular profession, and are often accessible through a professional organization. Staff writers or other professionals in the targeted field write these articles at a level and with the language to be understood by everyone in the profession.

Additionally, they are:

  • About trends and news from the targeted field, book reviews, and case studies.
  • Often less than 10 pages, some of which may contain footnotes and references.
  • Usually published by professional associations and commercial publishers.
  • Published after approval from an editor.

Scholarly SourcesScholarly – Scholarly journal articles (such as Plant Science and Education and Child Psychology) are meant for scholars, students, and the general public who want a deep understanding of a problem or issue. Researchers and scholars write these articles to present new knowledge and further understanding of their field of study.

Additionally, they are:

  • Where findings of research projects, data and analytics, and case studies usually appear first.
  • Often long (usually over 10 pages) and always include footnotes and references.
  • Usually published by universities, professional associations, and commercial publishers.
  • Published after approval by peer review or from the journal’s editor.

More About Scholarly Resources

Scholarly Articles as Sources

Articles in scholarly journals are valued for several reasons. First, they are usually trustworthy because their publication process includes a peer review that helps insure their accuracy and contribution to their disciplines. In addition, they often contain the first reports of new research, which makes their sections on methodology, data, analysis, and interpretation primary sources. Sometimes they instead consist of literature reviews summaries of multiple research studies done in the past on particular subjects of current interest. That makes those articles very helpful secondary sources.

Peer-Reviewed Sources

The most-respected scholarly journals are peer-reviewed, which means that experts in their field other than the author and editor check out each article before it can be published. It’s their responsibility to help guarantee that new material is presented in the context of what is already known, that the methods the researcher used are the right ones, and that the article contributes to the field.

For those reasons, peer-reviewed articles are more likely to be credible. Peer-reviewed journal articles are the official scholarly record, which means that if it’s an important development in research, it will probably turn up in a journal article eventually.

Here‘s a longer explanation of the peer review process, which concludes that it is good but not perfect.

Parts of a Scholarly Article

Parts of a Scholarly Article

The articles you use for your assignments must also be relevant to your research question—not just credible. Reading specific parts of an article can help save you time as you decide whether an article is relevant.

Reading a scholarly article usually takes some effort. Here’s how to do it.

ACTIVITY: Parts of a Scholarly Article

Open activity in a web browser.

Finding Scholarly Articles

Most scholarly articles are housed in specialized databases. Libraries (public, school, or company) often provide access to scholarly databases by paying a subscription fee for patrons. For instance, the HCC Libraries provide access to hundreds of databases via its A-Z Database list that are made available free to people affiliated with the system. You can search for a journal title in these databases or view a list of databases by subject. For more information, including how to search databases, see Specialized Databases.

Databases that aren’t subject-specific are called general databases. Google Scholar is a free general scholarly database available to all who have access to the Internet, and it provides some scholarly articles. For more information, see our section on using Google Scholar.

TIP: Known Article Searching

What if you have a citation for an article you need and now have to find the actual text of the article? Try using our Journal and Article Finder tools

The Peer Review Process


Peer Review



University of California at Berkeley (n.d.). Scrutinizing science: Peer review [digital image]. Understanding Science. Retrieved from

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