Academic texts, part 2: Publishers

One way to try to determine whether a text is scientific or not is to look at the context of the text and who is behind the text.

  • Is the article published in an scientific journal which you know of since before?
  • If you do not know the journal, is the publisher or organisation behind the journal known to publish scientific journals or to produce research? For example the Human IT, journal mentioned in the earlier post, is published by University of Borås. Another example is British Educational Research Journal which is associated with the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and published by Taylor & Francis which also publishes other scientific journals. Other well-known international publishers are Elsevier, Springer, Blackwell, Routledge and a number of publishers connected with universities, University Press –  although these are not necessarlily connected to a university anymore.
  • The above is valid for monographs and anthologies aswell.
  • When it comes to conferences a bit more detective work is needed but there are some conferences which are connected to an organisation, e.g. IEEE or ACM.
  • Some databases demand that journals and conference papers must have gone through peer review, e.g. Web of Science. If you are unsure you can check whether your journal is included there. Just remember, your journal is not automatically non-scientific just because the journal is not included in WoS-list.

So far the texts accepted as scientific in higher education are those which have been peer reviewed by external reviewers and the peer review usually takes place just before publishing. As the world of publishing is changing many researchers are using other channels to test their results and reasoning, such as blogs or publishing preprints (paper accepted for publishing but published yet) in open repositories such as arXiv.org. These texts are not necessarily considered as scientific although many of them are, especially those in arXiv.org. Depending on how the publishing world changes this might come to change.

//Helena Francke, lector at BHS

Blog posts are translated from Swedish by Pieta Eklund.

Academic texts, par 1: Peer review

An important aspect in research is to review each other’s work. Is the research done in a proper manner and are the conclutions reasonable? The normal way to do this is through peer review. Articles which have been peer reviewed are called refereed articles. This means that a text is reviewed by one or more researchers within the specific research area. The reviewer should not be too close to the author. The reviewers should judge whether the article is good enough to be published, how it could be made better – and preferably catch mistakes and errors. A decision is then made by the editor if the article will be published or not.

Peer review differs a bit from research area to research area. In some research areas peer review is not the usual where as in other areas it is unthinkable to use material which has not been peer reviewed.

How do you know when a text is peer reviewed or not? When it comes to journals it is usually stated in the journal issue, on the web page or even in the article.

  • It can be very clear on the cover of the journal, e.g. ”PLOS Biology is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal featuring research articles of exceptional significance in all areas of biological science, from molecules to ecosystems.”
  • There might be guidelines for reviewers, e.g. ”Reviewer guidelines”. The review process is probably described, more or less in detail. See e.g. PLOS Biology Guidelines for Reviewers.
  • There might be guidelines for authors, e.g. Author guidelines e.g. Human IT (in Swedish).

As shown in the Human IT case a journal may contain both peer reviewed articles and articles which have gone through an editiorial review.

Conference papers are much like journal articles: it is not clear how much the conference has reviewed the contributions. Sometimes it is only a part of the paper which has been reviewed: the abstract rather than the whole paper. This is why you should be observant when it comes to which articles and papers have been peer reviewed.

When it comes ot scientific books, monographs (usually one author on one subject/aspect of a subject) it is harder to know if they are peer reviewed or not. Swedish books are usually not peer reviewed but they go though an editorial review. There are ongoing discussions to introduce peer review for monographs. However, British and North American monographs are often peer reviewed.

Anthologies, a book with chapters from a number of authors, are a bit different. Sometimes the authors have reviewed each others contributions, sort of an internal review but anthologies might have external reviewers aswell. In this case there is an acknowlegement in the finished book.

Of course peer review is not a quality guarantee that the research is done well and well argumented for but it is the most widespread and reliable system we have to quality review research.

//Helena Francke, lecturer at BHS

Blog posts are translated from Swedish by Pieta Eklund.

Academic texts: introduction

“Use peer reviewed/academic/scientifc texts”

This is something you hear from your teachers. As a student you are expected to build on scientifc publications, partly because the knowledge has been researched during structured forms and peer reviewed, partly to learn from and develop your scientific attitude. The university’s mission is to offer education on scientific ground.

What is scientific text? How does it differ from non-scientific text? Or from popular science texts? Or other texts which are not claiming to be scientific? This is not an easy question and there is not one simple answer. Rather, there are good examples to be found in both areas but there is also a gray zone in between.

The picture is complicated further by the fact that assessment differs from subject to subject. Therefore the following blog posts are only a general walk-through. A part of higher education is to learn what is scientific in one’s own subject field. The area I know best is the Social Sciences which you might notice.

There are some general things to observe when forming an opinion whether something is scientific or not. I will write about them in a series of blog posts. These are:

1. Peer review
2. Publishers
3. Scientific genres
4. References
5. Intended Audience
6. Content and form
7. Internet resources

The aim is for you to feel a little bit wiser next time you are searching and using scientific texts for your term paper or thesis.

//Helena Francke, lector at BHS

Blog posts are translated from Swedish by Pieta Eklund