Answered By: Shana Higgins
Last Updated: Nov 07, 2016     Views: 6475

Clues to look for when determining the scholarly-ness of...


  • The journals in which they appear are often published quarterly at most
  • The articles are substantial (not just 2 or 3 pages)
  • The author(s) are named, along with their affiliations (such as university or research institute)
  • The journals in which they appear contain little or no advertising, glossy pictures or other decorative graphics. Graphics are usually limited to charts and graphs.
  • The articles include a list of references. (This is great, because if you find one good scholarly article, it will lead you to other potentially useful resources).
  • The articles are written at a level assuming a certain level of prior knowledge. Unlike articles in newspapers or popular magazines, which are written for the general public, scholarly articles are written for an audience of scholars, practioners or students in the discipline.

Is it peer-reviewed?

  • If you find an article in a library database, often the database will identify the journal as being peer-reviewed or refereed.
  • Check the journal's website for evidence of a peer-review process. This information is often found under information for authors, submission guidelines or editorial policies.


Publisher: Who is the publisher? Do they specialize in this field? Is it published by a University Press (e.g. Oxford University Press, Indiana University Press)? Take a look at the publisher’s website if you are unsure of their focus.

Bias: Does the publisher have a religious or political affiliation? Consider how this affiliation might affect the scholarship and/or content of the book.

Authority: Who is the author? Do they have credentials that give them authority (advanced degrees, other published scholarship) on the subject? Are they recognized by other scholars in the field?

Cited Sources: Scholarly books will have cited references or a bibliography. Most books written for general audiences will not. Consider the quality of the sources: look for inclusion of journal articles, primary sources, and other scholarly books by experts in the field.

Content: Consider accuracy, bias, audience appropriateness, graphics/charts/illustrations. Look for books that have clear structure and organization, such as a preface, introduction, table of contents, conclusion, and index. 

*Adapted from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, McIntyre Library, "Scholarly or Peer-Reviewed Articles," and Portland State University Library "Determining whether a book is scholarly."

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