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Determine if an Article is Scholarly: How to Determine if an Article is Scholarly

Learn how to differentiate between popular and scholarly articles and how to find peer reviewed or refereed journal articles.

How to Determine if an Article is Scholarly

What makes an article scholarly?

When doing research, it is important to remember that not all information is created equally. Scholarly articles differ from other articles.

To determine if an article is scholarly, ask yourself the following questions:

Who is the author? Who is the audience?
Scholarly articles are written by experts for experts.

Who are experts?
Researchers, professors, or professionals in the field.

Who is the publisher?
Universities, academic presses, and professional organizations publish scholarly articles.

Why was the article published? What is its purpose?
Scholarly articles are published to make research available to other researchers.Each article contributes to the conversation within the field of study.

Does the article cite sources?
In scholarly articles, sources are cited clearly and transparently in a structured bibliography.

What is the format?
Scholarly articles follow a structure that frequently includes headings for different sections, such as abstract, introduction, methods or methodology, results, conclusion, or references. They often range from 10-30 pages in length, have few (if any) advertisements, and use graphics to elucidate points made in the text.

What is peer review?

Not all scholarly articles are considered peer-reviewed!

Peer-reviewed journals contain scholarly articles that have been reviewed by a panel of scholars or experts in a particular discipline before publication.

Peer reviewed journals are generally scholarly, but not all scholarly journals are peer reviewed.

A comparison of peer-reviewed and scholarly journals. Adapted from "What's the difference between scholarly and peer-reviewed articles?" by University of Toronto Libraries. Retrieved from


You can read more about the peer review process here.

Library Databases

Library databases provide electronic access to articles published in periodicals.

Library databases are different from most search engines. How do they differ?

  • The library pays to access these resources (that's why we log in through the library homepage)
  • The way you enter search queries:
    • Most library databases cannot parse natural language queries (NQL)
      • NLQs are like asking your home assistant a complete question such as, "Hey robot, what's the weather today?"
    • However, databases can help get you to specific content related to your topic!
      • You can search by topic keywords, author, title, DOI, or other criteria
      • You can easily limit/filter searches to get more relevant results
  • The results that are returned:
    • Are usually trustworthy
      • Read more about evaluating authority, accuracy and other features on our library guide
    • Are organized and easy to sort
      • There are fewer overall results returned, but those returned will exclude more irrelevant results
    • Make full text more easily accessible
    • Can be limited to peer reviewed sources