What is a Scholarly Article and How Do I Find One?

Information Literacy Instruction Coordinator

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William Cuthbertson
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All About Scholarly Resources

At some point in your academic career you will probably be asked to locate and use a scholarly or academic resource. As an academic library, Meriam Library collects mostly scholarly resources. What does this mean? Scholarly resources have the following features:

1. They are written by experts - look for an author's credentials or affiliations.

2. They are written for other experts or people in academia. Think of each scholarly work as a voice in an ongoing conversation to which you will add your voice when you write a paper. 

3. They use scholarly language with technical, discipline specific vocabulary.

4. They provide verifiable and reliable evidence for claims. Even if the resource is a general history/overview it will contain well researched information that the reader can verify.

5. They may be peer reviewed. Many journals go through an editorial process where other experts review and assess the information. 

How do you know if a journal is peer reviewed? Some databases will let you check a box to limit to peer reviewed articles. You can also look at the journal's website which will explain the editorial process including whether or not the journal is peer reviewed. 

For more comprehensive journal publication information see below:

Scholarly articles are published in scholarly journals. Most of these journals are discipline specific. For example if you study microbiology you might want to look in the Journal of Bacteriology. If you study Shakespeare you might look at Shakespeare Quarterly. Scholarly articles have certain things in common.

What to look for:

  • Bibliographic information (author, title, publisher, date, volume and issue number)
  • Author credentials and affiliations (what and where of expertise
  • An abstract stating a summary of the article
  • Science and social science articles will most likely have an introduction, methodology (how research was conducted), results, discussion, and conclusion
  • Notes, references, or works cited; This information is provided so readers know where the information was obtained, can verify sources, and/or use information for their own research. 

Sometimes you will encounter popular resources. Not only will you need to learn how to differentiate scholarly and popular resources but you will need to know when it is appropriate to use a popular resource. Here is some information about popular resources: 

Features of popular resources such as magazines:

  • Glossy pictures
  • Written for general audiences most likely by non-experts such as journalists
  • Easy to locate and purchase
  • Catchy headlines and titles
  • Articles tend to be short
  • Lots of color images and advertisements
  • Little or no reference to where the information was obtained
  • Examples: Time, Oprah, National Geographic, People, Sports Illustrated

Click the image or use the below PDF for more information.

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