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PLSC 90: Introduction to Security (Harrisburg)

This guide is designed to support Penn State Harrisburg students in PLSC 90 in completing their written assignments.

Common Types of Information

As you conduct your research, you will come across different kinds of sources, which can often be broken down into three larger categories:

Scholarly Literature: Scholarly literature is written by experts in a given field and is published in a journal. Journals will typically include original research articles, reviews, and opinion pieces. Articles published in highly-regarded scholarly journals will typically undergo a peer-review process prior to publication. This means that the article was reviewed by other experts for accuracy and validity of the research prior to publication. These are the articles you are REQUIRED to use for your assignments.

Trade/Professional Literature: Professional or trade publications are written by journalists or professionals working in a particular field. The authors assume subject knowledge of the reader, and the articles are generally written to update professionals within a particular field about current events, trends, and opinions which may affect their work. These articles are NOT peer reviewed.

Popular Literature: Popular literature is often the kind of information we are most familiar with, found in newspapers and magazines. These articles typically report on current events or trends and are written by journalists employed by a publication. These articles are typically written for a broad audience and do not generally assume deep subject matter knowledge of the reader on given topics.

Evaluating Scholarly Literature

As part of your assignments for this course, you instructor is strongly encouraging the use of scholarly literature in your papers. 

When you conduct your research through the library databases or other sources, you will discover many types of results. How can you be sure that the sources you find are scholarly?

Below are a few things to look for when seeking scholarly articles. If you are unsure, you can always ask a librarian or your instructor for more help.

Author Affiliations: A scholarly journal will typically list the affiliation of the articles author(s), often including any relevant degrees, their positions, and where they work -- which will typically be a college/university or some other type of research institution. 

example of two authors with their institutional affiliations listed

Research Methods: Scholarly articles often report research findings. If the article you are reading claims to be original research, you should be able to locate a method section of the article which explains the process used to conduct the research in great detail.

References: A scholarly article will have a full reference list at the end with formal citations and should have in-text citations throughout the article.

Need More Help?

It's important not to take everything you find at face value, but instead do a little digging to evaluate your articles -- even scholarly articles. 

If you're stuck and need more assistance evaluating the information you've found, check with your instructor, your librarian or visit the link below for more help.