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Research Guides

Eastern Washington University Libraries

Distinguishing Scholarly Articles

Scholarly Articles

EWU Libraries offer a wide range of article databases. These sources index popular magazines, newspapers, academic journals, trade publications and other materials. In research assignments, students are often required to use primary research articles, literature reviews or book reviews appearing in academic or professional journals with an established reputation, written by credentialed "scholars" with an established subject background.

To determine which articles are scholarly, consider the following:

Periodical Titles

Popular magazines like Discover, Fortune, Newsweek, and Psychology Today don't publish scholarly or research articles; journals like Nature, Harvard Business Review, Media Studies Journal, and Behavioral Science do.

General Appearance

Scholarly articles tend to be long, use an advanced or technical vocabulary, and sometimes contain raw data tables. Magazine articles are shorter and often have color illustrations.

Article Abstracts

Scholarly journal articles usually include one-paragraph abstracts written by the author, while citation databases often feature third-party abstracts for their scholarly content.

Author Credentials

Professional degrees or affiliations with research institutions are sometimes indicated at the beginning of scholarly articles. Articles written by general reporters, or with no authors listed, are considered less authoritative.

Bibliographic Citations

Complete notes and references within articles are strictly required in scholarly publishing to allow readers to consult the author's source materials for verification and expansion. Magazines and newspapers rarely cite their sources completely.

Peer Review or Refereed Journals

The highest level of authority, especially in scientific articles, involves independent review before publication by one or more experts in the field. These "referees" look for valid research methodology and accurate data, but do not necessarily support the conclusions of the author(s). Ulrich's Periodicals Directory is a database that can be used to identify refereed journals, but be aware that only the scholarly content in these journals is peer-reviewed - news items and opinion pieces might also be included, but not reviewed.