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EDUC 8011 Module 4: Module 4

What is a Classic Article?

Classic works are ones that have had a major impact in a field of study.

As you go through your program, you will become familiar with classic works because they will be mentioned frequently in textbooks, research articles, and other resources.

It is more difficult to identify classic articles as a new student.  Here are some hallmarks of classic works:

  • frequently cited by other authors
  • written by major theorists or researchers
  • often called influential, seminal, or groundbreaking in literature reviews

To find classic works, you can try the three following strategies:

Look at the number of times the article has been cited.

Google Scholar is a useful tool for this type of search.

Search for articles that are at least 10 years old.  Then look for a number next to Cited by under the article information. This tells you how many times it has been cited in other books and articles.

There is no specific number of times an article needs to be cited to be classic. It depends on the age and popularity of the topic. Look for items that are cited more often than your other results of similar age.

Learn how to link Google Scholar to the Walden Library.


Look for articles and books written by major theorists.

You can find the names of major theorists listed in textbooks, encyclopedias, and informational websites.  The Walden Library has a collection of encyclopedias you can search.  The Further Readings area often lists major works on the topic. For more information see our Theories and Theorist guide.

Once you've identified the name of a theorist, you can search for articles by that theorist. You can do this by searching for the name, last name first, and changing Select a Field (optional) to AU Author using the drop-down menu. A good database for this search is Education Source.


Look for articles that are frequently referenced in the literature you have on your topic. 

Read through the bibliography and the literature review sections of several related articles to see if they cite the same sources, or mention specific sources as being influential.

In a literature review you might see information that mentions a theorist and his classic work on the topic. For example, in an article on andragogy, you might see that Malcom Knowles is mentioned as important to the principles of andragogy. The same article may list Knowles' book, The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species. These are clues that this theorist and work are important to the idea of andragogy.


Helpful Links

What is Peer Review?

Peer-reviewed journal articles are evaluated by experts in the field prior to publication.

Many of the library databases include a peer review limit.

Primary vs Secondary Sources

A Primary Source is any material where the author presents his or her own research, theory, ideas, or experience.

  • a research article outlining the methodology and outcomes of the author/authors' research
  • The US Census
  • The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
  • Walden by Henry David Thoreau

A Secondary Source analyzes and discusses primary sources.

  • a literature review article in a peer-reviewed journal
  • a book about Freud's theories written by a psychology researcher
  • an encyclopedia article

NOTE: you must look at a source to tell if it's primary or secondary. 

Some primary sources will include secondary source material, such as the literature review portion of a research article. 

Search Limits

Look for search limits on the Advanced Search page in the database.

Date limits:

Date Limit in Ebscohost database

Date Limit in Sage database


Scholarly and Peer Reviewed Limit:

Limit to peer review in Ebscohost

Note: everything in the SAGE database is peer reviewed, so you will not see a limit.


Full Text:

Full Text limit in Ebscohost

Limit to content available in SAGE

Identify original research studies (primary sources)

After a search, read article titles and abstracts to see if they address your topic and look for indications that the author(s) conducted original research. (Click an article title to see its abstract.)

Some abstracts clearly identify the major components of an original research study:

Article abstract with section headings highlighted: Purpose, Design/methodology/approach, Findings, and Originality/Value


Other abstracts are less structured but still readily indicate whether it's a research study:

Abstract with the following highlighted: quantitative and qualitative data were collected, analyzed, and compared; results of the study revealed; quantitative data did not reveal; qualitative data indicated; results of the study have implications.

Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a search tool by Google that helps you discover scholarly information on the internet.

The resources below can help you learn how to use Google Scholar in conjunction with library resources:

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