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How to Identify Scholarly Journal Articles

...and where to find them.

How Will I Know?

Almost all of the library's databases will allow you to focus your search within academic, scholarly, trade or peer-reviewed journals.

Limiting to academic/scholarly, however, may also retrieve professional journals.  Some professors consider these scholarly, others don't.  Ask for clarification.

Look for:

  • Journal in the journal title.  You can't apply this clue blindly;  it's imperfect-- Ladies' Home Journal is not scholarly; while Sex Roles (without journal in the title) is.
  • Subject specific terminology, jargon or language within the article title.
  • High page numbers.  Typically scholarly journals continuously paginate January through December.  Thus, after the publication of the first volume, you'll see high page numbers. This is an important clue--probably the one you can count on most. 
  • References or Works Cited within the article.  Look for other clues, too.
  • Abstract is contained within the article (useful only if you can pull up the PDF of the article).
  • Authors identified within the article as having come from a university, college, or research facility.  Imperfect.  Look for other clues.
  • Methods also called "methodology" or "materials and methods," this section describes the author's research methods: experiment, survey, data sources, etc.
  • Results, findings, or data -- this is the section of the article in which raw data are presented.
  • Conclusion -- the author's conclusions based on the analysis of the results/data.

Every scholarly research article will indicate what methods and tools were used to conduct the research, what the results were, and how the author interprets those results.

View some sample citations below to compare scholarly and non-scholarly journal articles.  Still unsure?  Check The Serials Directory for the definitive word on whether your source is scholarly or general.

Image source: Syker Fotograf.  GNU GPL.  Wikimedia Commons.   

Stuff That Will Trip You Up

Be aware that not everything you encounter in scholarly journals will be a research article Scholarly journals contain book reviews, commentary, editorials, and literature reviews.