Identifying Scholarly Articles

To find scholarly journal articles for your research paper, you need to know some features that distinguish scholarly articles from magazine or newspaper articles.

Hover over each question to learn the differences between scholarly journals and popular magazines & newspapers. In the Scholarly Journals column, click "What should I look for" in each section to learn more about scholarly articles in databases.

Nursing Education
Scholarly Journals
Time Magazine
Popular Magazines & Newspapers
Experts in a field
Scholars or Professors
What should I look for?
Who writes them?
Reporters or Journalists
Staff writers
Free-lance writers
Researchers and Experts
Scholars (including students)
People with knowledge of the topic
What should I look for?
Who reads them?
General public
People who do not have in-depth knowledge of the topic
"Serious" looking - mostly text, some charts, graphs, or tables
Fewer advertisements or illustrations
Generally longer articles
What should I look for?
What do they look like?
Glossy, color photographs
Commercial advertisements
Easy-to-read or eye-catching layout
Original research or studies
In-depth analysis of a specific subject
Critical analysis (criticism)
What should I look for?
What's in them?
Entertainment and popular culture
Current events and news
Opinion pieces or articles with an emotional slant
A panel of experts in the field
This is called "peer-review" - a group of the author's "peers" evaluates it
What should I look for?
Who evaluates them?
Staff editors and publishers
Finding current research about a very specific aspect of your topic
Learning what the experts say about your topic and using it to support your thesis
What should I use them for?
Broad overviews of current topics
Information about popular culture
Introduction to an unfamiliar topic
Scholarly Journals are sometimes called Academic Journals or Peer-Reviewed Journals. These names all refer to the same types of articles.

Who writes them:

Look for information about the author, like where he/she works or what qualifications he/she has to write about the subject. This may appear directly below the author’s name on the first page, or may be included in a brief separate paragraph at the beginning or end of the article.


(Image from "Effects of Exposure to thin and overweight peers" Academic Search Premier (PDF))

Who reads them:

Look for specialized vocabulary or language specific to the field. Read the first paragraph and try to tell if it is written for the average person or for someone who is familiar with the subject.


(Image from "Effects of Exposure to thin and overweight peers" Academic Search Premier (PDF))

What do they look like:

If possible, view the PDF Full Text of the article so you see it exactly as it appeared in print. There will not be many advertisements, it will be mostly text, and there may be some statistical graphs or charts.

Haworth-Hoeppner, Susan. "The Critical Shapes of Body Image: The Role of Culture and Family in the Production of Eating Disorders." Journal of Marriage & Family 62.1 (Feb. 2000): 212. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. RVCC, North Branch, NJ. 16 Dec. 2008 .

What’s in them:

Check at the end of the article for a Bibliography or References list. A well-researched article will have a list of all the sources that the author used. If there are no References, it is probably NOT a scholarly article. Also, look for an Abstract at the beginning of the article - long, in-depth articles will often start with an abstract (a summary of the article) to explain the key points or conclusions in the research or study.

References screenshot

Abstract screenshot

Ferraro, F. Richard, et al. "Aging, Body Image, and Body Shape." Journal of General Psychology 135.4 (Oct. 2008): 379-392. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. RVCC, North Branch, NJ. 16 Dec. 2008 .

Who evaluates them:

Find information about the Periodical the article was published in. Determine the title of the journal or magazine that published the article (also called the Source in databases). See if the database has information about the periodical, or try finding information about the periodical on the Internet. Look for the words "peer-reviewed," "academic journal," or "scholarly journal" in the descriptions of the periodical.

("Peer Reviewed screenshot" picture)

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