After scholars have communicated informally with colleagues via the invisible college, performed literature searches, and consulted their own professional reading collections, they develop a research design for a specific research project.
When the project is complete, the scholar may communicate the research results at a professional conference, and/or publish the article in a refereed journal, laying out the results of the research in a highly defined manner. Refereed journals have editorial boards and editors who carefully sift articles submitted to them and judge them by exciting standards, such as soundness of research methodology, quality of writing and presentation, and originality of ideas. In this sense the editors are exercising a gatekeeping function: that is, they control what gets published according to their view of what is valuable or appropriate to their discipline or sub-discipline at the time. This process of “quality control” is exercised by colleagues or other people in the same field and is therefore called peer review.
Journal articles are often later reviewed, and critiqued by other scholars familiar with the subject. If the original research article proves especially significant, its results may be discussed in a monograph (book) summarizing research on specific topics in the field.
Finally, though years later, the results may be mentioned in a specialized encyclopedia – by which time the results may have been significantly challenged or questioned by much newer research. Other researchers may find new ideas for research on this topic at various stages of this process; it is likely, though, that they will be plugged into the invisible college and therefore will not be dependent on older sources such as encyclopedias. This cyclical pattern of original research, followed by a chain of various publication formats, is known as the publication cycle.
There are, of course, variations on the basic pattern which reflect the differing orientations of the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.
Image from: http://www.uri.edu/library/staff_pages/kinnie/lib120/periodical.html