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Humanities Libertexts

6.2: What Makes a Source Scholarly or Academic?

  • Page ID
    12072
  • Most of the Tier 1 sources available are academic articles, also called scholarly articles, scholarly papers, journal articles, academic papers, or peer-reviewed articles. They all mean the same thing: a paper published in an academic journal after being scrutinized anonymously and judged to be sound by other experts in the subfield. Academic articles are essentially reports that scholars write to their peers—present and future—about what they’ve done in their research, what they’ve found, and why they think it’s important. Scholarly journals and books from academic presses use apeer-reviewprocess to decide which articles merit publication. The whole process, outlined below, can easily take a year or more!

    Peer Review

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)Understanding the Academic Peer Review Process

    When you are trying to determine if a source is scholarly, look for the following characteristics:

    • Structure: The full text article often begins with an abstract or summary containing the main points of the article. It may also be broken down into sections like “Methods,” “Results,” and “Discussion.”
    • Authors: Authors’ names are listed with credentials/degrees and places of employment, which are often universities or research institutions.The authors are experts in the field.
    • Audience: The article uses advanced vocabulary or specialized language intended for other scholars in the field, not for the average reader.
    • Length: Scholarly articles are often, but not always, longer than the popular articles found in general interest magazines likeTime, Newsweek, National Geographic, etc. Articles are longer because it takes more content to explore topics in depth.
    • Bibliography or Reference List: Scholarly articles include footnotes, endnotes or parenthetical in-text notes referring to items in a bibliography or reference list. Bibliographies are important to find the original source of an idea or quotation.

    Characteristics of a Scholarly Source

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\)Example Scholarly Source

    Writing at Work

    Finding high-quality, credible research doesn’t stop after college. Citing excellent sources in professional presentations and publications will impress your boss, strengthen your arguments, and improve your credibility.

    Key Takeaways

    • Academic sources follow a rigorous process called peer-review. Significant time and effort goes into ensuring that scholarly journal articles are high-quality and credible.
    • Skim a source and look for elements like a defined structure, author credentials, advanced language, and a bibliography. If these elements are included, the source is likely academic or scholarly.
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