Identifying Scholarly Journals

Scholarly journals are also called academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed journals.  They differ from popular magazines and trade journals/magazines in a number of ways.  A primary difference between scholarly journals and other types of journals and magazines is that articles in these journals undergo a "peer review" process before they are published. What does this mean?

• Peer review is the process by which an author's peers -- recognized researchers in the field -- read and evaluate a paper (article) submitted for publication and recommend whether the paper should be published, revised, or rejected.

• Peer review is a widely accepted indicator of quality scholarship in a discipline or field. Articles accepted for publication through a peer review process meet the discipline's expected standards of expertise.

• Peer-reviewed journals only publish articles that have passed through this review process.

-Scholarly journals generally have a sober, serious look. They often contain many graphs and charts but few glossy pages or exciting pictures. The language is that of the discipline covered.

-Scholarly journals always cite their sources in the form of footnotes, endnotes, or bibliographies. These bibliographies are generally lengthy and cite other scholarly writings.

-Articles are written by a scholar in the field or by someone who has done research in the field. The affiliations of the authors are listed, usually at the bottom of the first page or at the end of the article.  These affiliations are usually universities, research institutions, think tanks, and the like.

-The main purpose of a scholarly journal is to report on original research or experimentation in order to make such information available to the rest of the scholarly world.

This short video from Vanderbilt University illustrates how to recognize scholarly articles and how to find them in the library.

Additional videos (produced by Falvey):

What are scholarly journal articles?  (~2 min.)

How do I find scholarly journal articles for my paper? (~3 min.)

The following characteristics can help you distinguish between scholarly journals and two other types of periodicals: popular magazines and trade publications. If in doubt, ask your professor or a librarian for assistance. (Chart provided by the library of San Diego State University)


* text for this section was found on the website of the San Diego State University library
** text for this section was found on the website of the Cornell University library