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ENGR 499 - Capstone Engineering Research

Scholarly journal articles

What are journal articles?

Scholarly journal articles report on the findings of scholarly studies. Journals publish articles on a regular basis. Think of a journal like a scholarly magazine. A journal might be published once every month, or every two months, but no matter the frequency, it will include a collection of recent articles by different authors in the journal's area of focus. Journals can be published in print, but most are published online. 

One reason journal articles are valued is that they are often peer reviewed. The peer review process allows those who are knowledgeable in a discipline to assess the quality and validity of the research, so that low-quality research is not published. It is a type of quality control for journal articles. 

Each journal has an area of focus. As an example, the ACI Structural Journal for publishes articles on the the topics of: structural design, analysis of concrete elements and structures, research related to concrete elements and structures, and papers addressing design and analysis theory. IEEE, the Institute for Electronic and Electrical Engineering publishes over 400 journals, each with a different area of focus. With thousands of journals in the field of engineering, you can’t browse webpages for individual articles, you need to search. 

How to find journal articles?

UBC Library provides access to many article databases where engineering students can find scholarly journal articles. Compendex and Scopus are the main databases that we recommend when searching for journal articles. Choose the research guide most relevant to your field of study and it will direct you to relevant databases to search within.

What does peer review mean?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines peer review as:

"The process by which an academic journal passes a paper submitted for publication to independent experts for comments on its suitability and worth; refereeing" (Oxford English Dictionary, 2022). 

The publisher Biomed Central defines peer review as: 

"Peer review is the system used to assess the quality of a manuscript before it is published. Independent researchers in the relevant research area assess submitted manuscripts for originality, validity and significance to help editors determine whether a manuscript should be published in their journal" (, 2023). Biomed also provides some great diagrams that help explain the process. 

To assess whether an article is peer reviewed, you can look for the following:

  1. Many (but not all) peer reviewed articles will include the dates that the article was submitted, revised, and accepted for publication. This information is meant to communicate to you (the reader) that the article has been through the peer review process
  2. You can look at the website of the journal that the article is published within and read about their publication process. If they use a peer review process, this will be explained. This information is often found under a section called "author information" or something similar
  3. You can search the journal title within the Ulrich's Periodical Directory which has information about journals. If the article has is listed as refereed, it uses a peer review process (refereed and peer review are synonyms)
  4. Finally, use your own judgement! A peer reviewed article will be reporting on research, it will use technical language specific to the field of study, it will have citations throughout and a reference list at the end, it will follow a standard layout and will generally be printed in black and white, with colour formatting only for diagrams, charts, etcetera. And it will always have all of the information required to format a proper citation, a date of publication, a journal title, authors, an article title, a volume or issue number, and a permanent link or DOI (if it is an online publication). 


Is This a Scholarly Journal Article? 

Anatomy of a journal article

The diagram depicts the first page of an article titled “Hemp waste valorization as biofuel and cement replacement in cement and concrete production,” published in 2021 in a journal titled “Waste and Biomass Valorization.” To view this full article, you need to login with your CWL.

Screenshot of a journal article with annotations showing each element of information

Not all articles will be formatted exactly the same, but the pieces of information we have highlighted are standard, and as a reader of academic articles, it helps to know what they mean. 

  • At the top of this article highlighted in green is the title of the journal, Waste and Biomass Valorization. This article was published in 2021 in volume 12 and is ten pages long, spanning pages 913-923. The DOI (digital object identifier) is a structured permanent link to this article.
  • Next, we have the title of the article itself highlighted in light orange, this is usually descriptive enough to provide someone with knowledge of the subject with enough information to click on it!
  • There are four authors who collectively wrote this article, highlighted in blue. There are superscript numbers next to each of their names, and on the final page of this article, you can see their full credentials and contact information. An additional screenshot below shows these affiliations. Two researchers are from UBC, one from BCIT and one from a company called Nextleaf Solutions.  

Screenshot of the affiliations section of a journal article

  • We have a series of dates that are highlighted in purple. They read: Received: 10 December 2019 / Accepted: 27 March 2020 / Published online: 2 April 2020. These dates are meant to convey to you as the reader that this article has gone through the peer-review process.  
  • Highlighted with pink are the headings Abstract and Graphic Abstract. Both of these are overviews provided by the authors that summarize the research presented in this article. 
  • Following the abstracts are keywords that the authors have supplied to describe their work, highlighted here in yellow. These can be helpful for you to use when searching for additional research on this topic. A useful search strategy is to take those keywords, type them into Compendex or Scopus, and find additional sources. 
  • One of the authors is also highlighted in blue at the bottom of the screen. Dr. Christina Zanotti from UBC is designated as the corresponding author. Researchers use articles as a starting point for sharing their latest research findings, but other researchers often follow up with them to learn more, to collaborate, or to invite them to present at conferences.