JSTOR and Peer Review

Students who are heading to college can head off with more CONFIDENCE if they’ve had practice with the databaJ-Storse used most widely in universities:  JSTOR.  Apply what follows to develop your skills.

Q1: What makes JSTOR so widely used?  A:  IT’S HUGE!  The contents are all peer-reviewed!  Its historical coverage goes back to the middle ages with pamphlets, journal articles, books, etc., so it rocks for these scholarly purposes:  finding primary sources, tracing historical developments in scholarship, and finding seminal research across almost ALL fields of study– science, humanities and literature galore. It is an expensive database to which most universities and many public libraries subscribe for their patrons. Materials in it are largely protected by copyright. Google Scholar (link) points to many of its holdings, but you can only get free access if your institution has paid for it.

Q2: What’s meant by “PEER REVIEWED?”  A: It means that scholars with EXPERTISE in that field of study have reviewed the methods of research used by the writer and have deemed those methods to be “sound.”  (Free junk on the internet is often posted without anyone ever reviewing it to see if it meets any scholar’s standards or or editor’s approval or journalistic ethics.)

Q3: Can you describe the process of PEER REVIEW?  A: Outstanding video on peer review.

Q4; If an article is PEER REVIEWED before it is published, does that guarantee that it has no errors in it? A: Absolutely not!  Sure there could be errors, mistakes, or even falsification of data that even the journal’s editoris and the reviewing PhD’s in the field didn’t catch.  But AT LEAST scholars who are guarding their own reputations have scrutinized the work and said the research methods were sound and the results appear reasonable.  It is always the authors’ obligation to conduct their research ethically, report truthfully what they find, support their argument (thesis) with actual EVIDENCE, credit sources so that others know where to seek out more depth, and not plagiarize someone else’s work. Since other experts will soon be reading the article, scholars are FOOLS to expose themselves and end their careers for doing sloppy or unethical work.  No new university will EVER hire them again!  (REPUTATION is everything in universities!)

Q5: What is JSTOR’s WEAKNESS?  A:  Think of it as “old stuff.” It’s an Archive, but not as current as databases that have the most NEWLY RELEASED and current issue of a journal.  Almost nothing gets placed into JSTOR until it has been marketed elsewhere for at least 6 months. Libraries offer current issues of academic journals in OTHER expensive databases by which the actual journal makes much more money while their copyrighted work is fresh scholarship. Browse the titles of the journals to see the actual dates covered by JSTOR. JSTOR is focused on providing to scholars material that is still copyrighted and not freely available in the public domain.

JSTOR features


Q6: What’s the fastest way to research in JSTOR?
  A: It depends on your starting point: whether or not you actually know precisely what you are looking for. Do you know the title of the document? Or the journal in which it was published? Use “Basic Search” at D above.  Or are you just doing a general search for anything you can find related to your search terms? Are you interested in publications from a specific era in history?  TAKE TIME to see how clever and PATIENT use of the “Advanced Search”  feature will narrow your results REALLY PRODUCTIVELY.  Clever use of “delimiters” during “advanced search” as well as “facets” in the margins on your RESULTS screen will save you a ton of time. So slow down and notice the database’s features built to save scholars precious TIME.

Q7: JSTOR is so huge, I’m overwhelmed by too many results, and I’m in a hurry, so, what’s the WRONG way to research?  A: Always put phrases inside “quotation marks.”)

INSTEAD of basic searching, use Advanced Search and Boolean Operators, and select the “subject” of your inquiry (African American Studies, Language and Literature, Biology, for example. Take your time to select that subject really specifically or broadly, depending on whether you are finding too much or too little.) Also, watch the first Intro to Searching tutorial and Advanced Search Tutorial.  Be aware that additional videos follow that might not address the JSTOR access that you are provided by HBW.

You will discover that some journals are INCREDIBLY SPECIFIC in their title and will lead to a WEALTH of articles that provide AMAZING DEPTH on your topic of inquiry.  Using “Browse” you can search JUST THAT JOURNAL.

Q8: Do speedy researchers ever register for an account?  If so, why?  A: If you have a long project, you’ll research in stages.  If you register for an account, you can easily make lists of resources to match your projects.  Dump articles there to read, sort, cite or toss away later. (You can do that using the feature just above letter C in the graphic below.)

Q9: What other time-savers are built into JSTOR?  A: use the “stable URL” shown by letter D below.  Don’t use the URL shown by letter A because it doesn’t function the same way, but rather records the clicks you previously made this session. Use the handy citations (in whichever format, APA, MLA or Chicago) — letter C.  Letter E provides crosslinks to additional related articles by “keyword terms” that employ “librarians terminology” instead of any old casual term.  Keyword terms are assigned to articles when that article is MAINLY ABOUT that topic. So if you find one article that is REALLY TIGHTLY RELATED to your subject of inquiry, you can easily discover more that are like it by clicking on its keyword terms.  You can also steal keyword terms and recombine them in more refined advanced searches.










Q10: Will JSTOR work from off campus?  A: Yes, all of our databases do!  Just use MackinVia which you get at access.apsva.us. Other entry points won’t work.  Googling for JSTOR WON’T WORK.  All of HBW’s databases will likely fail if you aren’t already logged into Canvas or if you fail to open the databases by using the link in your teacher’s Canvas Course.

Q11: Are the search delimiters on JSTOR’s advanced search screen similar to other databases? A: YES! That’s why practice with JSTOR increases your skill in other databases.  Consider uses for each of the following delimiter in JSTOR’s Advanced Search: