I have prepared this “taxonomy” of references to help, primarily, theological students in their first year of composing weekly theological papers (and any other academic paper, for that matter). I require that my students include at least two peer-reviewed journal articles in their 3-5-page papers. This is not merely busy work. Rather, journal articles stimulate that most sublime of cultivated research traits, “following the footnote trail.” To do so is to embark upon discoveries and “deeper learning.” But there are other fine references to consider. That is what this little posting is all about.
We trust it is of help.
Definitions for Using References in Research
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article or Book
A published, peer-reviewed article is a written product that has been read, reviewed, and edited before publication in a professional journal, academic journal, or book.
The most reliable form of peer review is “blind peer review.” In a blind peer review, both author and reviewers are unknown to each other. The goal is to eliminate, as much as possible, biases that would impede the reliability of the material. Such articles are generally available on ATLA Database for Theology and Religious Studies.
Subject Matter Expert
An expert may have broad interpretations. However, for scholarly work, a Subject Matter Expert (SME) is one who has earned the respect of peers in his field by credentials, education, accomplishments, publications, consultations, and a body of work in the respective field that is distinguished by a broad acknowledgment of expertise. Using critical variables by profession, one can quantify and, thus, evaluate whether one is an SME. The United States military has employed this method for assigning certain personnel, military, naval, and civilian, as Subject-Matter Experts. Dissertations and manuals are included in this citation type.
These are books written by and for a particular audience in an identifiable field of study or practice. Professional books include e.g., dissertations, theses, and textbooks.
Popular Books and Articles
These references in research are written without peer review, without the author necessarily being a Subject-Matter Expert. While not as “high” on the taxonomy of sources as, say, a peer-reviewed article, popular books, and articles do represent valid source material. Indeed, often popular works may be cited to affirm a broad knowledge of a given endeavor.