Recognize a scholarly/peer-reviewed article

Scholarly articles are sometimes referred to as "peer-reviewed" or "refereed" because they are typically evaluated by other scholars before being accepted for publication.  A scholarly article is commonly a study or a literature review, and usually longer than a magazine article.

The table below compares some of the differences between magazines (e.g. Psychology Today) and journals (e.g. Journal of Abnormal Psychology).


  Popular Magazines Scholarly Journals
Reference list no yes
Appearance flashy cover, photographs, advertisements mostly text, few ads, graphs & charts
Article length short long
Audience general public students, professionals, researchers
Authors staff writers practitioners, theorists, educators
Titles short & catchy long & precise
Publisher commercial educational institution or professional organizations


The clearest and most reliable indicator of a scholarly article is the presence of references or citations. Look for a list of works cited and/or numbered footnotes or endnotes. Citations are not merely a check against plagiarism. They set the article in the context of a scholarly discussion and provide useful suggestions for further research.

Using the table above, can you tell which of the following records is a scholarly journal? Answer is below.

comparing a magazine and a journal article


Answer: In the graphic above the first article from Research in Higher Education is a journal.

Some library databases allow you to limit your search to scholarly articles. (The graphic below is from an EBSCOhost database. Check the box to apply the scholarly/peer-review journal limit.) This is a useful feature, but it is not 100% accurate in terms of what it includes and what it excludes. You should still check to see if the article has references or citations.


Check box for scholarly journals