Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Journals & Periodicals: Identifying Scholarly Sources

Learn how to distinguish between the 3 major categories of information sources: scholarly, popular, and trade.

Is it a Scholarly Article?

Scholarly = expert author + focused analysis + citations provided + a formal publiation process via a university or professional society. Anything else may be a good source but it won't count as scholarly!

Signs you have a scholarly article:

  • References/Bibliography/Works Cited -- Whatever it may be called, there's a long list of sources at the end of the article. The sources referenced themselves tend to be scholarly.
  • Authors are experts -- Look for the authors to have at least Masters degrees (probably PhDs) from accredited universities.
  • Language is a bit dense -- The article title is long and descriptive, and so are the sentences. A high-level vocabulary using jargon or technical terms as well as potentially complex sentence structure are noticeable. The audience of these articles is intended for other scholars in that field.
  • Few or no images -- Not a lot of decoration in these articles. Images that exist are probably charts or graphs to help present data. You also shouldn't be seeing ads around the article.
  • Lengthy -- There's no getting around it: these articles tend to be much longer than what you find from a newspaper or magazine. If you've found an article that's only a couple of paragraphs, it's not scholarly. There's no hard rule, but scholarly articles should easily be at least 5 pages.

The Scholarly, Popular, or Trade? page of this guide has a detailed breakdown of characteristics.