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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

English 201 Library Research

Distinguishing Scholarly Articles

For your research paper in English 201, you will need to find lots of articles published in scholarly journals.

Other terminology for this type of source:

  • Peer-reviewed journals -- this means that the articles were critiqued by the author's peers, or other experts on the issue the article is about
  • Refereed journals -- the same definition as peer-reviewed journals
  • or just journals -- many scholarly journals have the phrase Journal of in the title, so this becomes the shorthand name for scholarly information published in periodicals.

So how do you know if a source is a scholarly article?

The library databases help you identify where the article is coming from. In the EBSCOhost databases (Academic Search Complete, SocINDEX with Full Text, etc.), it will label peer-reviewed journals as Academic Journals, as opposed to News or Periodicals.

And the limiter to scholarly, peer-reviewed journals is prominent in virtually all of our article databases.

But it isn't as simple as clicking the limiter, because this limits the source to a scholarly journal, but not the individual articles. Scholarly journals occasionally publish news articles or editorials. Therefore you need to evaluate the specific article to see if it is scholarly.

1. Is there a bibliography or list of references?

If the article does not include a literature review of other research done on the topic, as well as listing the sources the author(s) used, it is not scholarly.

All scholarly information "stands on the shoulders of giants." Sir Isaac Newton said that,and it's as true now as it was back in Newton's time. (Google Scholar uses this phrase as their motto.) Scholarly knowledge builds on what other scholars have stated.

2. Is it lengthy?

While there are exceptions, most scholarly articles are quite lengthy -- 10 to 30 pages long. (Some scientific and medical journal articles are shorter, such as 3 to 5 pages, if they are writing up the results of a concise study they did.)

3. Is the article based on original research, or an in-depth analysis of an issue?

As you become more familiar with college-level research, you will soon learn to spot scholarly articles by the abstracts or summaries very, very quickly! Most of the time the abstract states the research question, the methodology of the study, and the results.

Scholarly articles come in two main flavors -- research articles and review articles.

Research articles -- the author(s) have done original research and are writing up their findings; or it offers original, deep analysis of the issue (for those topics that do not lend themselves to performing experiments, such as literary criticism or historical analysis).

Review articles -- the author(s) are critically reviewing other people's original research to synthesize what is known about the issue. These articles are extremely useful to understanding your topic, and they will have done a lot of the legwork for you! The articles will contain summaries of all the key research done within whatever timeframe, and you have a detailed literature review you can use to track down the original research.