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Mat-Su College: Psychology

A guide for MSC psychology courses.

What is a scholarly article?

Psychology experts (think professors) sometimes have new ideas to share with other experts. Often they do this in a very formal way: by publishing a "scholarly article."

Experts in all fields write "scholarly articles." Why are these articles called "scholarly?" Because they are typically written by scholars, for scholars. "Scholarly" articles are very different from magazine or newspaper articles.

For example, scholarly articles...

  • share the results of research, usually with lots of evidence to back that up (e.g., tables, graphs, charts, statistical analysis)
  • have a very matter-of-fact, straightforward writing style. They don't tell a story or have "hooks" to engaged bored readers.
  • are written by and for experts; they may use very difficult, specialized language.
  • are carefully reviewed by other experts before they are published.

These features make scholarly articles unique. They also make scholarly articles the "gold standard" for making your point in a paper.

One last thing. Because scholarly articles are for people at colleges and universities (which usually have money), the companies that publish scholarly articles can get away with charging a lot of money for them. That means scholarly articles are usually not available for free -- unless you go through your college library, that is!

90 second video: how to tell if an article is scholarly

Where do I find scholarly articles?

Scholarly journals can cost hundreds of dollars per issue, so they don't just give their articles away.  When you find a scholarly article using a normal search engine like Google you might be asked to pay 30 or 40 dollars to read the article. Bad deal!

Instead, you should use the Mat-Su College Library website. We pay to subscribe to many databases -- that is, online collections of articles. 

There are several databases you might use when doing Psychology research. Here are two of the best.

  • Academic Search Premier. A good, general purpose database. It covers almost all academic subjects, including psychology.
  • PsycNET. Psychology-focused, with over four million articles and very powerful search features.

Click on the name of a database to enter it. If necessary, login with your University of Alaska username and password.

To learn how to use these databases, read other pages of this guide.

Why you shouldn't ever click "Limit to Full Text"

Most databases include an option in the search results page along the lines of "Limit to Full Text":

Screenshot of the Limit to Full Text placement in CINAHL

It may seem like a good idea to turn this on. Don't. It is bad.

A database doesn't really exist to show you full articles. It exists to show you article citations, i.e., details of articles. Most databases have the full text for only some of these articles. If you click "Limit to Full Text" you might miss the best search results.

For articles whose full text is not available with a "PDF full text" link, just click the "Check Library for Full Text" button. In most cases this brings you to a database that does have the full text of the article.

Sometimes, you will get a message saying that the item is not available online through the library:

Screenshot of message saying item is not available online

But that's okay! Just make a note of the article title, its author, the journal it appeared in, the date, and the pages -- basically, what you see right there on the screen. Then go to the Mat-Su College Library website and click the "Interlibrary Loan" link:

MSC library page with Interlibrary Loan hilighted

At the Interlibrary Loan page, just fill out the form for requesting a journal article. We'll find a library with a print copy, we'll have them scan it and email it to us, we'll print it out for you, and then we'll let you know it's ready. This is a free and fast service. It gives you access to just about any journal article you could ever want.