Scholarly journals specialize in publishing technical and research-oriented articles, and are mostly intended for students and other scholars. Because journal articles are oftened accessed individually online, here are some clues to look for when identifying them:
What do scholary articles (also called "empirical research articles" or "peer-review articles") look like?
Use the acronym IMRaD to remember the major sections found in a scholarly article:
Some databases allow you to limit your search to "peer-reviewed" results only. However, be aware that peer-reviewed journals also contain articles that are not peer reviewed, such as editorials, letters, or book reviews. (Find a shortened printable version here.)
1. EBSCOHost databases are a great place to start searching for peer-review articles. Select Academic Search Elite, CINHAL, and/or Science Full Text Select then click "Continue".
2. On the search page type in the keywords (only the most important terms) for the subject you're searching for. Then check the box for "Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Journals" in the "Search Options” section. This means your search results will only show those articles that were published in Peer-reviewed Journals.
3. You can now browse the results for articles that look interesting. Most of the articles are available full-text online, so the whole article is right there under the "full text" link along the left side of the page.
4. Two other nice features on EBSCOhost: First, you can limit your results by the year published along the left side of the results page:
Second, you can have EBSCOhost create a citation for you. Although not always 100% accurate, it's still a useful tool! Access this tool on the detailed record page for any article, along the right side of the page:
Are scholarly journals, research journals, and peer-reviewed journals the same?
All 3 terms are often used interchangeably, however:
Are scholarly articles primary sources or secondary sources?
Research articles are usually primary sources. That is, the authors are reporting directly on research or experiments they’ve conducted, and not reporting it second-hand.
To learn more about primary sources or secondary sources, check out the handout created by the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
How can I tell if an article is a peer-reviewed?
First, find out if the journal in which the article appears is peer-reviewed. Second, be aware that peer-reviewed journals also contain articles that are not peer reviewed, such as editorials, letters, or book reviews.
There are two ways to find out if a journal if peer-reviewed or not.
1) Visit the journal website. Peer-reviewed journals are usually good at making it clear that they are peer-reviewed.
2) Some databases provide such informaiton.
EBSCOHost databases (Academic Search Elite, CINHAL with Full Text, etc)
On the search result page, click on an article title to see the the record of this article and click on the title of the journal (called the "Source"). Then look for the "Peer review" heading towards the bottom of the page.
WilsonWeb Science Full-text Select
On the search result page, click on an article title to see the the record of this article. Then look for the "Peer reviewed Journal" heading below the Abstract and Subject(s).
An important characteristic of scholarly journals is the process of peer review. Before being accepted for publication, scholarly articles are evaluated and reviewed by experts on the topic.
Still have questions about peer review? Watch this 3-minute video created by North Carolina State University.
It covers how peer-reviewed articles are different from other types of publications, how peer-reviewed articles are tied to teaching and learning activities on college campuses, and where to go for help in finding peer-reviewed articles.