Identifying Scholarly Journals
Peer-review is the key distinction between scholarly and non-scholarly sources.
In contrast to popular newspapers, magazines, websites, and books, scholarly sources are written by experts in a particular field and then reviewed (assessed, evaluated, etc.) by other experts in that field prior to publication.
Other clues that an article is scholarly:
- The author is an expert. Most scholarly authors are affiliated with a college, university, or research institution. They hold relevant advanced degrees.
- The article presents original research. This research can take many forms, but it often involves formal data analysis or theoretical discussion. Keep in mind that peer-reviewed journals also publish book reviews, opinion pieces, and other types of articles. While these articles can be useful, they are not the same as peer-reviewed research articles.
- The article incorporates sophisticated, precise terminology. Experts writing for an expert audience typically use specialist language that will be unfamiliar to a reader outside the field.
- The article includes a bibliography. Most scholarly articles include in-text citations or footnotes, as well as a lengthy bibliography, reference list, or works cited page. The bibliography helps the reader seek out the author’s sources and understand the larger “conversation” on a topic.
Locating Scholarly Articles
Few databases (ex. JSTOR) include only scholarly sources. Usually databases include a mix of popular and scholarly material.
Some databases let you limit your search to only scholarly, peer-reviewed materials. Look under the Limits or Filters section on the database's search screen for the words "scholarly journals" or "peer-reviewed".
In EBSCO Academic there is a checkbox under the Limits section for "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals".
In ProQuest Direct there is a checkbox for limiting to "Peer reviewed" materials.