Finding Scholarly Articles

What is a scholarly article?

Library databases give citations, abstracts, and sometimes full text, to a wide variety of sources: popular magazines, trade journals, academic journals, newspapers, etc.

Often people look for a specific type of article: a scholarly article. Academic journals publish these kinds of articles. They can cover a wide variety of topics. They may be original papers that describe empirical studies and their results, or a literature review on a topic, or they may explore a subject in detail.

To determine which of the articles you find are scholarly articles, use these guidelines:

  • What is the name of the journal?
    Popular magazines like Newsweek, Forbes, or Time don’t publish research articles; publications like Journal of Religion or the American Journal of Sociology do.
  • Is the journal peer-reviewed or refereed?
    Journals that use a refereed or peer review process are usually more scholarly.
  • How long is the article?
    A scholarly article is usually substantial, not 1 or 2 pages.
  • Does the article contain references to other works?
    Serious researchers and scholars always cite their sources.
  • Who is the author of the article?
    Is he or she an expert on this topic, as opposed to reporters who write on a wide variety of topics? Has this author written other works? Does the author have an academic affiliation?
  • In the abstract of the article, how is the article described?
    Read the abstract of the article carefully. Variations of the words study, measure, subjects, data, survey, or statistical usually indicate empirical research.

Where can I find scholarly articles?

General multidisciplinary databases that contain popular magazines, trade journals, academic journals, and newspapers, such as FusionAcademic Search Complete, Academic OneFile, allow you to limit your search to scholarly or peer-reviewed articles before you search.

Alternatively, in all of these databases, you may want to wait to limit your search to scholarly journals after you see your search results. This will give you the option of also seeing non-scholarly articles from popular magazines and newspapers. Sometimes you may want to see newspaper and popular magazine articles to get the most current information on a topic.

Other Databases

The library has over 200 other databases on a wide variety of subjects, many of which have scholarly articles. These databases are arranged on our web page under broad subjects like Sociology or Business. Look within each of those broad subjects for specific databases.

Identifying Peer-Reviewed Journals

  • Check in the database Ulrichsweb to determine if the journal is identified as peer-reviewed.
  • Or, find the official journal web site and check to see if it states that the journal is peer-reviewed. Be sure to use the official site (often located at the journal publisher's web site).
  • If you are still unable to determine if a journal is peer-reviewed, check with a librarian or your instructor.