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Scholarly & Peer-Reviewed Content: Explained

In a nutshell

  • Scholarly content is more thoroughly reviewed than popular sources
  • Peer-reviewed content is rigorously vetted for accuracy
  • Scholarly & peer-reviewed content comes in many different containers
    • Journals
    • Books
    • Specialized encyclopedias
    • Academic Web sites (.edu)
    • Government agencies (.gov)
    • Professional organizations (.org)
  • When in doubt, consult your professor to see whether a particular article is acceptable

What is a Scholarly Journal Article?


What is a Scholarly Journal Article?
Chances are you'll need to find a scholarly journal article for a research paper or project in the near future. But, wait, what is a "scholarly journal article?" How is it different from a popular source like a newspaper or magazine article?

Let's reduce the confusion on scholarly journal articles.

Scholarly journals enable scholars -- experts in a particular academic field -- to communicate their research with other experts in that field through publishing articles and to stay current by reading about other scholars' work. Consequently, scholarly journals create a community of scholars who are all participating in a kind of "conversation" in that academic field. Rather than a face-to-face conversation, this is a formal conversation, which takes place over months and years through written documents.

The most important part of this long term written conversation - what makes it a "scholarly" conversation, as opposed to popular - is what's called the "peer review process." The peer review process works like this: in order for a scholar to get published in a scholarly journal, his or her expert peers must read their work and critique it. These "peer reviewers" make sure that the scholar has cited the appropriate experts in the discipline, made valid and well-supported arguments, and has written the article on a topic that is appropriate for that particular journal. This rigorous evaluation process ensures that scholarly work meets a higher standard than popular publications.

So, why is this important for you?

First, the information in a scholarly text has been rigorously evaluated, so it is more reliable and credible than information in popular sources.

Second, reading scholarly journal articles for your papers or projects can give you insight into the ways of thinking of experts in that field. 

Finally, every scholarly text has extensive bibliographies that introduce you to important texts in the field, which can help you extend your research in that area. When you read the articles and books the scholar cited in her article, you are taking part in the scholarly conversation.

Okay, so, brass tacks: let's say you are in a research database and you only want scholarly articles. How do you do it? In EBSCO's Academic Search Complete, a common research database, you check the box for "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" before clicking the search button. That's it. Now, all of your results will be scholarly articles.

Use filters to get scholarly articles

Primo filter peer-reviewed journalsUse OneSearch to search several article databases simultaneously.

On the results page, use the left-hand "Show only" filter, "Peer-reviewed Journals" to limit your results to scholarly articles.

EBSCO filter scholarly journals​EBSCO article databases have a similar filter in a similar location.

Look for the check box "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" on the left side of your search results.

Google advanced search filter domainUse Google Advanced Search  

to get domain-specific results.

  • .edu gets content  from academic instututions
  • .gov gets U.S. government agencies
  • .org gets non-profit, trade, and professional organizations

Google Scholar

filters your search results automatically for scholarly content.

Google Scholar Search