One key way to identify scholarly articles is to determine whether or not they are peer reviewed. Often, databases will even filter out Peer Reviewed articles for you. See the Peer Review page on this Guide to Learn more. In the event that an article is not peer-reviewed, there are some additional ways to decide how scholarly an article is.
Scholarly vs. Popular Literature
Popular literature is designed for people at large - with appropriate language level and reflecting the taste, trends, and interests of the general population. It could include anything from newspapers to the more sensational magazine offerings and is usually for entertainment purposes. Scholarly literature on the other hand, is concerned with research and academic topics and is a tool for sharing an authoritative opinion.
Scholarly journals also look different from the popular magazines. For conveying scientific information, authors often use graphs, charts, or equations and use language that is standard for the field (and sometimes is not easy to fully grasp). In a popular magazine, it will very often be flashy and glossy with pictures or illustrations but vew charts or graphs - and definitely, no equations.
Comparing Scholarly Journals & Popular Magazines
|Scholarly Journals||Popular Magazine|
|Advertising||Few, if any, ads. Most ads will be for books, other journals, and academic conferences.||Many slick ads for consumer products.|
|Appearance - Overall||Sober and serious often presenting data or research results using charts, graphs, and equations.||Flashy and glossy with many illustrations or pictures. Few charts and graphs. Definitely no equations.|
|Article Acceptance & Editing||Uses a “peer review” or “referee” process, in which articles are reviewed by other experts in the field. Look for an “Instructions for Authors” section online at the journal's web page or look up the journal in Ulrich's Periodicals Directory.||Articles are reviewed by the journal's editors before publication.|
|Article Length||Varies, but often a very long paper.||Generally shorter.|
|Article Structure||Has an abstract, and often the abstract, like paper is structured into sections: introduction, methodology, results, and conclusions.||Comparatively unstructured.|
|Audience||Scholars, researchers, and students. Uses scholarly terminology and jargon.||General public. Language is accessible to most readers.|
|Authors||Experts in the field. The authors’ credentials, affiliations, and contact information are listed||Reporters and freelance writers. Names and affiliations may not be listed.|
|References||Includes extensive footnotes and/or bibliography.||Rarely includes footnotes or bibliography.|
|What does it look like?|
What are scholarly articles?
Scholarly works have several very specific qualities that set them apart from the popular works like newspapers, Time, Newsweek, or even online sources like Wired. Unfortunately, there is no perfect definition as scholarly can have multiple meanings and may not always look exactly the same. The following are the commonly used descriptions of scholarly works.
What are the hallmarks of scholarly articles?
While you probably have never given much thought to scholarly articles and those qualities that make an article scholarly, if you think about it, you can probably think of a few things that are typical in scholarly works. A few of the characteristics include:
Want to double check a journal?
You can check the Ulrich's Periodicals Directory to see if the journal is listed as "refereed". After searching Ulrich's using the journal's name, look for the little icon that looks like a referee's shirt.