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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

Music 603: Graduate Music Education Project

Distinguishing Scholarly Articles


  • 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 Education Research Complete, or ERIC, it will label peer-reviewed journals as Academic Journals, as opposed to News or Periodicals. NOTE: In RILM, the limiter Academic Journals brings up journals and magazine articles.

But it isn't as simple as clicking the limiter, because while this sometimes limits the source to a scholarly journal, it does not for 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, or footnotes at the bottom of the pages?

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.

2. Is it lengthy?

While there are exceptions, most scholarly articles are quite lengthy -- 10 to 30 pages long.

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

As you become more familiar with music education literature, 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 research, and the results.

Look Up the Source

If you aren't sure if the source of the article is a peer-reviewed journal, you can look it up in Ulrichsweb. I find it's easier to search by ISSN of the source, rather than by title.