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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

Library 101 Tutorial

For English 101 Basic information about library research

How Can I Tell if the Article is Scholarly

For your researched argument in English 101, you will need to find 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, but that's not foolproof. There are lots of mainstream newspapers with the word journal in the title, such as the Wall Street Journal.

Your instructor may state you only need to cite one at a minimum (some will require more than one), but you'll most likely find more than that, and for some issues the scholarly articles will be the most useful.

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

The library databases help you identify where the article is coming from. The database Academic Search Complete labels:

  • Newspapers = News
  • Magazines and trade publications = Periodicals
  • Scholarly, peer-reviewed journals = Academic Journals

And the limiter to scholarly, peer-reviewed journals is prominent on the left side of the screen.

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 an author(s)?

If you cannot figure out the specific individual(s) who wrote it, you can dismiss it. There is no such thing as anonymous scholarly information.

2. 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.

3. 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.)

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

Lastly, 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!