Answered By: Lynn VanLeer
Last Updated: Dec 12, 2016     Views: 2161

Scholarly definitions are typically found within scholarly, peer-reviewed articles. You may also find them in scholarly books.

There is no perfect method that will quickly and easily find an article or book that contains scholarly definitions. As you read articles for your research, it can be helpful to simply keep track of definitions as you find them.

Here is one strategy you can use to try to locate articles that may have scholarly definitions:

1.  Pick a database with peer-reviewed articles in your subject area.

Tip: You can use the Articles by Topic page to select a database.

2.  Type your term in the search box.

Tip: If it is a phrase, place it in quotation marks so the database searches for it as a complete phrase, instead of as individual words.

The example image below uses Education Source to look for articles that use the term "political diversity." 

The search terms "political diversity" are entered in the first search field and the results of the search are displayed.

3.  Open the full text of an article and skim the beginning sections.

  • Does the article discuss how the term has been used by others?

  • Does the article provide a specific definition in the context of the research study?

What if you don't find a specific definition?

Sometimes you will have to infer the definition based on how the term is used within the article.

When you provide the definition within your own work, you don't need to use a direct quote from the original source. Instead, you can paraphrase the author's usage of the term into your own words.

You may also want to search for variants of a term. For example, when searching for a definition for social status, you may want to try the term socio-economic status as well as social status.


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