Sources of Academic Assignments
Generally, acceptable sources for academic papers include government reports (e.g., Bureau of Justice Statistics), peer-reviewed journal articles (e.g., Justice Quarterly, Criminology, etc.), or a book published by a reputable press (e.g., Waveland, Prentice-Hall, Sage, etc.). It may also include certain types of publications from non-governmental agencies such as Abt Associates, Council of State Governments, Pew Trusts, RAND Corp., Vera Institute of Justice or Urban Institute (which are generally government-sponsored reports).
The highest standard for acceptable sources includes peer-reviewed articles and books. Peer-review refers to a process through which research and theory papers are reviewed by experts in a particular field. Those experts determine whether or not a piece of work meets professional standards and appropriate research methods and analysis. Relatively few papers make it through a peer-review their first time, and many require subsequent “revision and resubmission” before they are published. Many papers are rejected as being below the quality level expected in a professional field. Thus, the “gold standard” of publishing is to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Many government and “think-tank” publications go through a similar review process, but are not always reviewed by an organized journal. They do meet professional standards. However, not all not-for-profit organizations subject their materials to this form of rigorous review.
Websites that offer short descriptions of theory, www.wikipedia.org, or pure advocacy organizations are examples of things that are not usually acceptable sources for scholarly papers.
“Legal” research and “social science” research have entirely different processes and applications. Generally speaking, law review articles do not go through the same form of peer-review process that social science articles do. Therefore, legal research may not be appropriate for a scholarly paper; this is especially true of law review articles that claim to be empirical research articles, but whose author has not conducted either the research or analysis of the data. As a general rule, do not use law review articles unless you are speaking directly to a legal issue.
For additional information regarding the selection of articles for academic assignments and other writing topics, such as avoiding plagiarism, citing sources using APA style, and conducting a literature review, see UCF’s Information Literacy Modules at http://infolit.ucf.edu/students/modules/.
The Writing Process
For help with overcoming writer’s block; developing critical thinking skills; understanding the material to be written, planning, organizing, revising and editing papers; designing oral presentations; and analyzing the rhetorical demands of a writing task, visit the University Writing Center. Click here for more information or give the center a call at the following locations:
Daytona Beach: 386-506-3297