Demystifying Scholarly Journals

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Needs Assessment

College level resources are vastly different from resources young learners have commonly interacted with. While students are apt to be exposed to higher levels of research given the rise of scholarly open access journals, access to the abundance of scholarly research is locked behind paywalls. Additionally, student interaction with scholarly journals in this context is seen as limited with some students indicating their only interaction with scholarly resources coming from the direct requests from their teaching faculty (Keba & Fairall, 2020). Though a recent study shows that most first-year students report that they feel “moderately prepared for college-level research” (LeMire et al., 2021, p. 4). This suggests a disconnect of student perception of readiness for research and evaluative experience of scholarly research. Such a disconnect is supported by student acknowledgement of the differences between popular and scholarly resources, but a struggle to understand the basic mechanics of scholarly article structure (Borelli & Johnson, 2013). This mini-course is designed to aid in the correction of misconceptions regarding scholarly resources and aid students newly exposed and reliant upon on scholarly research for future academic success.

Learner Analysis

This course is designed with first-year college students or individuals wishing to prepare themselves with an introductory familiarity of the standards and format of peer-reviewed, scholarly resources. Scholarly journal articles are usually locked behind expensive paywalls. Higher education institutions pay an exorbitant cost for access to these journals to support faculty and students in their mission to evaluate and build upon research and case studies of academic peers. Academic professionals are working to change this by changing the language in contracts to provide their research as Open Access, paying a small fee to have their research accessible to anyone with a connection to the internet. This affords the greater population the ability to interact with professional research when they may be unfamiliar with their format and organization.

Performance Objectives

- Identify what makes scholarly journal articles unique and explain why they are held to high standards for information seeking and learning.

- Demonstrate how to use abstracts to quickly evaluate whether a resource is directly helpful to their needs or interests.

- Show how to backtrack resources found in scholarly journals.

Task Analysis

Unit 1: Students will be presented with a list of published content in various formats (a tweet, a newspaper article, etc.) and be asked to think about their familiarity with them. Students will work together to come up with reasonable time frames for each format based on how long they think they could publish content. Students will also give a rating of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest) for each format based on how plausible they think the general information is in each format.

Unit 2: Students will be presented with an article and be asked to find the information from the abstract within the body of an article.

Unit 3: Students will search listed citations and provide links from the library webpage to the source sought.

Curriculum Map


Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units. Click the title of a unit to go to its page.

Demystifying Scholarly Journals: Unit 1

Students will begin the exploratory process of thinking about the information they interact with on a daily basis. Students may work in groups or individually to think about these sources and how much time and effort goes into creating them.

Demystifying Scholarly Journals: Unit 2

Students will be introduced to the format of scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. Students will learn the different sections and how abstracts help the researcher.

Demystifying Scholarly Journals: Unit 3

What are references? How can we use them to verify information and how can they be used to backtrack resources?


Borrelli, S., Johnson, C., & Washington State University. (2013). Information evaluation instruction: A three term project with a first year experience course. Comminfolit, 6(2), 173.

Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, Florida Atlantic University, Keba, M., Fairall, E., & Warren Library, Palm Beach Atlantic University. (2020). Not a blank slate: Information Literacy misconceptions in first- year experience courses. Communications in Information Literacy, 14(2).

Kirker, M. J., & Stonebraker, I. (2019). Architects, renovators, builders, and fragmenters: A model for first year students’ self-perceptions and perceptions of information literacy. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 45(1), 1–8.

LeMire, S., Graves, S. J., Bankston, S., & Wilhelm, J. (2021). Similarly different: Finding the nuances in first year students’ library perceptions. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 47(4), 102352.