Academic resources are those sources written by experts in that respective topic or field. These academically-leaning sources can include encyclopedias, journal articles, scientific research papers, academic dictionaries, and so forth. Generally, these do not include blogs, magazines, radio broadcasts, tv shows, and common websites. If in doubt, you can ask yourself these questions:
- Does the author have at least a master’s degree in the field?
- Does the source take an academic approach (for in-depth research) or a popular approach (for general audience)?
- Does the content directly relate to the topic and offer new information (rather than just repeating old information)?
- Does the article content go beyond mere opinion (e.g., an op-ed article in a newspaper) and prove the author’s viewpoint with scientific research or demonstrable facts?
Commentaries are books written by experts of scripture. They will take a book of scripture and carefully discuss it by chapter, verse, or phrase. You can select from technical, pastoral, or devotional commentaries. Here are some definitions of those:
- Technical commentaries: in-depth, detailed, sometimes lengthy, and tend to examine Greek and Hebrew
- Pastoral commentaries: a balanced approach that focuses on the most significant technical issues, while also applying the text for sermons and everyday life
- Devotional commentaries: a personal, reflective approach that emphasizes practical application for everyday life
For example, a helpful list of commentaries for every book of the Bible is available here: https://www.bestcommentaries.com/ You can also see how each commentary is classified according to the categories I defined above.
Academic journal articles have a complex title, but do not be afraid of that. To start, they are not “journals” like people write in at bedtime; they are not journals of self-expression. In short, academic journals are “magazines for academic research.” Unlike common magazines that you’d find in a store, however, academic journals take a very careful, in-depth approach to topics.
In most academic journal articles, the research is original, and the article goes through a thorough vetting process. This is why they are sometimes called “peer-reviewed” journals; a researcher or professor will submit an article, and before it is published, a number of his/her peers will verify the value of that article. This does not mean that every journal article is correct. However, it does mean that the article offers an important perspective, and other experts agree that it needs to be considered.
Academic journal articles tend to take 6-12 months to be published. They have the unique advantage of being published faster than books, which can often take a year or more. For that reason, journal articles (which are published recently) tend to be the most recent and up-to-date scholarship on a particular topic. For that reason, you generally want to use journal articles from the last 10 years or so — though exceptions can be made for significant contributions in the more distant past. Old journal articles (e.g., “A New Look at Paul’s View of Mission” from 1962) does not offer as much as a recent journal article (e.g., “The Connection between Pauline Missiology and Pneumatology” from 2016), since old content eventually finds its way into books. The 2016 article would be “hot off the press.”