Research plays a significant role in higher education, and you will probably be asked to do some form of research in the majority of your courses. Basically, conducting research involves seeking out sources of information on a given topic and incorporating those sources in your own work.
The purpose of academic research is twofold.
One of the most common types of sources you will encounter in your academic research is the scholarly journal. Scholarly journals have titles that tend to plainly indicate their subject, like Journal of Abnormal Psychology or The Linguistic Review.
Like a popular magazine, a scholarly journal is a periodical comprised of articles written by different authors. Unlike a popular magazine, a scholarly journal is not intended for wide circulation or a general audience. The articles in scholarly journals are written by experts and for experts, or at least aspiring experts. Therefore, the language is academic and can be dense and difficult.
Also, scholarly journals are peer-reviewed publications, meaning the articles that are published in the journal have been scrutinized and approved by experts in the field. This is important to you, the college student writing a research paper, because the peer-review process authenticates a given article as a credible scholarly source.
While scholarly journals provide excellent sources for academic research, they are by no means your only option. First of all, there may be entire scholarly books dedicated to your research topic. While the best place to find academic books is still the actual library, the virtual library of the internet is constantly expanding, and you may be able to find entire books or portions of them online.
A periodical is anything published at regular intervals so, in addition to scholarly journals, magazines and newspapers are periodicals. While something like The New York Times or National Geographic may not count as an “academic” or “scholarly” source, they may also be useful to you depending on the assignment.
You are not limited to print material, either. An audio recording, a television broadcast, or a YouTube video can all be valuable sources in the appropriate circumstances. Finally, specific assignments may allow or even call for primary research, meaning you conduct your own interviews or devise and disseminate your own surveys.