How do I know if an article is scholarly?

Your professor assigned a research paper that requires you to use scholarly sources. What does "scholarly" mean? How do you know if you've found a scholarly article?

What does scholarly mean?

  • A scholarly article introduces new knowledge based on original research or experimentation. Many scholarly articles undergo a process called peer-review. In this process, experts in the field scrutinize articles before they are published, resulting in a body of quality scholarly information.

How do you know if you've found a scholarly article?

  • If you find an article through a web search, you need to determine if it is scholarly. Even if you find an article in a database, you may not be looking at a scholarly article as some databases index many types of publications. Use this chart to help you distinguish between scholarly and popular publications.
Characteristic Scholarly Popular
Advertisements Few, usually for publications Numerous, color
Appearance Black and white, plain, charts, graphs Color, slick, glossy, illustrations, photographs
Audience Professors, researchers General public
Author Scholar, academic, expert Journalists
Editing Peer review Magazine editors
Language Specialized vocabulary Simple, accessible
Publisher University press, research institutes, scholarly press, professional organizations Commercial, for-profit
Purpose/Intent Original research, methodology, theory Entertain, inform, sell, promote
Documentation Footnotes, bibliographies, works cited Sources rarely cited
  • Many times scholarly articles are sufficient for your research, but if your article must be peer-reviewed, you will need to find that information in the Serials Directory. Search for the journal that the article appeared in. Serials Directory will then tell you if the articles in that publication are considered scholarly and if they undergo a peer-review process.

Still need help? Ask a librarian.