Identifying Scholarly Sources

How Do I Identify Scholarly Articles?

Scholarly, or academic articles, contain original research. Other kinds of articles appear in scholarly journals as well, including commentary and review articles. If you need to limit your sources to research articles, you must be able to tell the difference. Most research articles will contain a combination of the following:

A summary of the article. (Note: Abstracts sometimes appear in non-scholarly publications as well.)
Sometimes called "methodology" or "materials and methods," this section describes the author's research methods and tools: experiment, survey, data sources, etc.
Also called "findings," this is the section of the article in which raw data are presented.
Sometimes called "analysis," this is the section in which the author analyzes the data.
The author's conclusions based on the analysis.
List of references to works cited in the article.

How Can I Tell the Difference?

PURPOSE & EDITORIAL CONVENTIONS News reports, commentary, and features for a general audience. Sometimes geared to special interests (science, business, social activism). Articles are usually written by staff writers. Share the results of original research in order to contribute to the body of knowledge about a particular subject. Academic audience. Articles must frequently pass through a peer review process before being accepted for publication. Provide information about current trends, news and events in a particular field or industry. Sometimes include statistics, forecasts, and product information.
AUTHORS Journalists, freelance writers, commentators. Sometimes anonymous. Researchers, scientists, scholars. Practitioners or specialists in the field or industry, or journalists with subject expertise.
REFERENCES Original sources are sometimes obscure; may be mentioned but are rarely cited formally. Authors cite their sources in footnotes or bibliographies, which are often extensive. Practices vary; some cite sources and some do not.
TERMINOLOGY Nontechnical; written for a general audience. Uses the technical vocabulary of the discipline; assumes college-educated reader with some knowledge of the subject. Uses the jargon of the field.
PUBLISHERS Commercial publishers. Professional organizations, universities, research institutes, scholarly presses. Commercial or trade publishers, professional associations.
APPEARANCE Colorful, glossy cover, many ads for consumer products, illustrations, photos. Plain cover (usually), graphs, charts, tables and photographs. Few ads. Charts, tables, illustrations. Ads related to the profession or industry.

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