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English 301: College Writing and Research

About this page

When finding sources for a paper, you are often told you need "scholarly" or "peer-reviewed" sources. This page will help you understand what a scholarly source is, where to find scholarly sources, and how to determine if a source you have is scholarly. Here are the key activities on this page:

  • Watch the videos about  to scholarly materials and peer-review.
  • Review the information about understanding and finding scholarly articles.
  • Review the differences between a scholarly book and popular nonfiction.
  • Complete the activity; "How much do you know about scholarly articles."

Is the article scholarly?

What does scholarly mean?

A scholarly article is written by researchers who are experts in their field.
Researchers submit articles to the editors of the journals, who have them reviewed by several experts in the field, before deciding whether or not to publish the article. This is referred to as a scholarly, peer reviewed or refereed article. 
Newspapers, news magazines, and popular magazines are not scholarly. 
Trade journals often provide information about current developments in a field, but they are not peer reviewed, so they are not scholarly.
Generally, scholarly articles are more than 8 pages in length with diagrams charts and graphs, have a list of references at the end, are written in the specialized jargon of the field, and note the institution affiliation of the author.

How can I tell if an article is scholarly?

Typical features of a scholarly article:

  • Length: scholarly articles are longer, usually at least 8 pages, but there is no set rule, and they usually include diagrams, charts, or graphs

  • Bibliography: scholarly articles always have a list of cited works

  • Language: scholarly articles are written for scholars and not the general public, so the language is specialized and technical

  • Authors: scholarly articles are written by experts who usually have PhD and academic affiliations

  • Some databases will allow you to limit your search to scholarly journals, other databases may provide further details about journals such as whether they are scholarly.
  • Publisher databases will include information about a peer review process if the journal is scholarly

Just because your article is published in a scholarly journal does not mean your article is scholarly, because scholarly journals contain the following items which are NOT scholarly

  • Book Reviews
  • Editorials
  • Letters to the editor
  • Short news items

If you are unsure about using the information you've found, be sure to check with a librarian or your professor.

Peer Review

Activity - How much do you know about scholarly articles?

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