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:
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.
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.
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.
Peer-reviewed journal articles are evaluated by experts in the field prior to publication.
Many of the library databases include a peer review limit.
A Primary Source is any material where the author presents his or her own research, theory, ideas, or experience.
A Secondary Source analyzes and discusses primary sources.
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.
Look for search limits on the Advanced Search page in the database.
Scholarly and Peer Reviewed Limit:
Note: everything in the SAGE database is peer reviewed, so you will not see a limit.
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:
Other abstracts are less structured but still readily indicate whether it's a research study:
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: