Library director explains value of academic journals

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Correction: To access a library database off campus, students have to supply their Banner ID and ACES username.

Journals enhance research assignments because many are peer-reviewed.

By Felicia Mora

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

A resource the library offers that students may not know about are academic journals.

“An academic journal is a resource used to do research, and it’s more scholarly than, let’s say, a website or a newspaper article, library Director Johnathan Wilson said Oct. 13. “An academic journal is a collection of different articles from various sources. The reason they are required for so many research assignments is because they are going to be more academic,” Wilson said.

These journals can help improve an argument someone might make in an essay.

“They can help provide definitive statistics or numbers or data for your paper,” Wilson said. “So if you had something you needed to show, like obesity has risen in the past four years, an academic article is going to have that authoritative figure providing that information so they can be used in a variety of ways when writing a paper.”

To access an academic journal, a person can go to the library’s website and view over 120 databases.

“There is on the library’s website a link that says A-Z list, and that is a list of databases. All the databases are portals to access academic journals,” Wilson said. “There is also a link that says ‘lib guides.’ This is a catered selection of databases for different courses in different subjects.”

To access a database off campus, students have to supply their Banner ID and ACES password.

Wilson explained data usage can be tracked by the number of times individuals go into databases or traced separately by the number of times a databased is searched.

“Our most popular database is Academic Search Complete, and it’s a multidisciplinary database that you can find articles on any topic, which makes it very popular for students because no matter what assignment for what class they can go to that same database that is familiar and easy to use,” Wilson said.

The Academic Search Complete database has been accessed over 122,000 times in the last year, Wilson said.

The library spends one-third of its operating budget on databases each year, and that cost increases about 3 to 5 percent every year,” Wilson said.

That percentage is between $10,000-$15,000 per year.

These databases are only available to students taking classes at this college.

“You could be a PAC student, for instance, but as long as you are taking a class here you will be able to access our resources. That is due to the licensing agreement with the database owners. They only provide access to those students associated with this college,” Wilson said.

Using an academic journal can be better than using a search engine such as Google because it is more efficient, Wilson said.

An academic journal has a process of peer review that is conducted by a field of experts. Whether it’s biology, chemistry or of any topics being researched, experts have been working in that field for a long time and will review the article before it is published, Wilson said.

During a peer review process, the articles are checked for authenticity and accuracy.

“When using something like Google, anyone can publish a web page so looking at the reliability of the source you find on Google can be tricky,” Wilson said. “There are some websites that can be very good and there are some that are just opinionated and have bias so when you’re putting together a research paper you won’t have the most authoritative voice that you can supporting your argument. So that’s where the academic journals come in handy,” Wilson said.

Topics that are often looked into when searching for an academic journal at the library are social sciences such as literature, language and history, and the hard sciences such as chemistry, biology, anatomy and physiology.

For more information about academic journals, visit the library on the second floor of Moody Learning Center. Hours are 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday, and 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday.

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