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Division of HHS: Dental Health Programs: DNA/ HYG- APA Citation

Research and Resource Connections for Dental Health Courses

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Q: What does "Scholarly Article" or "Peer-Reviewed Article" Mean?

Coulter, P. (2016). Richard G. Trefry library: American public University System. Libanswers.

"Scholarly" and "peer reviewed" are often used synonymously, but they are not necessarily the same thing.   Peer reviewed articles are always scholarly, but not all scholarly sources are peer reviewed.   It may seem confusing, but it makes more sense if you think of "scholarly" as an umbrella term for several different kinds of authoritative, credible sourcesThese include:

  • Peer reviewed journals.  These journals primarily exist to publish the research findings of experts in a field. The articles that you see in these journals have been closely scrutinized by a panel of reviewers (also experts in the same field) before they are published.   
  • Trade or professional journals or magazines.  The articles in these periodicals are also written by and for experts, but there is no peer review.  The articles aren't limited to research...they may be news, best practice tips or opinion pieces. 
  • Government Publications  Many government agencies publish books, reports, data or statistics.  Government researchers, like those who publish in peer reviewed or trade journals, are often experts in their field.
  • Books.   Many researchers publish books or book chapters.  

How can you tell if an article is scholarly?  You will have to do some detective-work, but there are some telltale signs:

  • Author(s): Ideally, you should rely on information that has been published by an expert, someone who has studied the topic long and hard.    Most scholarly publications will list an author's credentials (their degrees -- M.S., Ph.D., Ed.D., etc. -  and the institution that they work for) along with his or her name.
  • Content:  Look for articles that cover a topic in detail (more than just a few pages long, typically).   It will probably include some kind of literature review, and discuss the work of other authors, in addition to any original research findings.  Make sure it cites its sources (a scholarly article will always have a "references," "bibliography" or "works cited" list). 
  • Audience:  Scholarly articles are written for professionals in the field.  You will probably notice a lot of technical language and/or discipline-specific jargon.  The tone will be formal.
  • Publisher.  Visit the journal's website to see what organization publishes it.  Professional associations, universities and government agencies are particularly good signs.  As you become more experienced, you'll also start to recognize major publishing companies in your field of study (Wiley, Elsevier, Sage, etc.).
  • Purpose and scope.  When you're on the journal's website, look for an "about" link to learn who the intended audience is and what kind of articles are accepted.

Supporting Links


Using APA (or any other) formatting  style is like the Amazing Race. Each piece of information needs to be collected in a particular order. You need to complete one step before going on to the next. It's also like a puzzle in that the pieces all have to fit together and there are very specific rules for how each piece of information is used.

There are hundreds of online sites and books that will show you how to follow the APA format but before jumping in it might be helpful to have a bit of background.

1. APA stands for the American Psychological Association. We are using information gathered from the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. It is referred to in many ways: APA style guide, APA formatting, APA citation format, etc. The current manual is the 6th edition, published in 2010. (See the link to the left)

2. The Commission on Dental Accreditation supports using this format AND if you continue your education you will be better prepared.

3. It is the standard format for health sciences, though this is not the only style used.

4. Its rules provide a structure for presenting scientific information in a manner that makes communication easier.  In other words; it provides a template for communicating.

5. The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is considered a very authoritative resource for all aspects of writing academic research papers. (See link to the left)

Often instructors (myself included) emphasize the way articles and books are cited on the Reference page, as if this was all there is to it, but really this is just one part of the process. There are four major components to papers that follow the APA style (See link to the left for a sample paper):

1. Formatting: The way the page is formatted has specific requirements, for example:

      Use 12 point Times New Roman font

      Each page has a running head (This is the title of your paper) at the top - left hand side of the page that is in all capital letters

      There is a page number in the upper right hand corner - on the same line as the running head

      Margins are 1 inch

      All text is double spaced including the References page

      All paragraphs are indented 1/2 inch

      Title page: The title is in upper and lower case letters, it is centered in the upper half of the page, and is no more than 12 words

         Under the title is the author's name, first name, middle initial, and last name

         Under the author's name is the institutional affiliation - where the research was conducted. In our case it would be Flint Hills Technical College

2. Abstract: This is a summary of the key points of your research

       It is on a new page (after the title page)

      The abstract is one paragraph long and is not indented

3. The body of the paper:

      Title of the paper is in the center of the page

      Introduction: often this is the same as or very similar to the abstract

      Literature Review: a summary of articles that relate to the topic being researched. Your instructor will explain how extensive this section should be. All     articles will have in-text citations.

      Discussion: in this section you reflect on key points discovered in the literature review and how your research fits with the authors' conclusions. 

      In-text citations: There are very specific rules for how sources are cited in the text of the paper. Credit must be given the authors of Ideas used in your      paper otherwise you are committing plagiarism which is a very serious offense and can lead to dismissal from the college. (See the Scholastic      Honesty policy in the college catalog.) (See EasyBib link on left for citation creation help.)

4. References: Works cited in the paper

      All resources cited in the body of the paper must appear on the References page

      Resources are listed in alphabetical order usually by author's last name. If no author, then by the title of the webpage or article.

This is a VERY brief overview. From this you can see, however, that leaving the paper to the night before it is due is not a very good idea.  It's very similar to learning a new software program. Not only are you mastering the material of your research, you are also following a complex set of rules for how the paper is presented.  All is not lost, however.  There are numerous resources for you to use. Some of them are listed to the left.

   One additional point:

   You are writing a case study which is a little different than a typical research paper. After the literature review you will present your patient's medical and    periodontal conditions, therapy plan, and postoperative instructions(see your assignment). (See the link to the left.)


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