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Identifying Scholarly Sources: Identify Scholarly Articles

Differentiate between mass market, trade, and scholarly books and Distinguish between magazines, journals, scholarly journals and peer reviewed/refereed journals.


Periodicals are works published at regular intervals.  They include magazinesjournals and newspapers.

Journals can be either Scholarly/Academic or Peer Reviewed.

The liming option to Peer Reviewed in the library catalog includes both scholarly/academic and actual peer reviewed journals.  Many periodical databases do so as well. See Step 4 of the Seven Steps to Successful Research for more details.

To retrieve Scholarly/Peer Reviewed articles when searching the library's Discovery catalog, select Content Type and then "Peer Reviewed" from the refining options to the left of the results list.

Last updated January 2024.





Substantive News or General Periodicals:  The main purpose is to provide    information, in a general manner, to a broad audience of concerned citizens.     They are generally published by a commercial enterprise, have an attractive    appearance, are heavily illustrated and seldom cite sources

Popular periodicals:  The main purpose is to entertain the reader, to sell products (their own or their advertisers), and/or to promote a viewpoint.  They are slick and attractive in appearance, heavily illustrated, very seldom cite sources, contain second or third hand information, have little depth of content, and the audience requires minimal literacy skill.

© Janet Tillman/The Master’s University, 2008-2014, permission is granted for non-profit educational use; any reproduction or modification should include this statement.

Last updated July, 2014

Indexes and Directories

Indexes can be used as indicators of both the type and content of a journal.  To ascertain if a journal is scholarly, ask these questions:

a.  “Is the periodical indexed and if so, where?”  The type of index is an indicator of the type of journal it is.

b.  “What areas of study are covered by the index; is the index interdisciplinary or subject specific?”

b.  “What is the scope of the index: how much of the field is covered; what subjects are included?”

c.  “What other titles are indexed by this same index: does it index magazines and journals, only journals, journals and other scholarly documents?”

Periodical Directories:  For publication information about indexing, size, audience, scope, political slant, affiliation, document type (e.g. magazine, scholarly, general, peer reviewed, etc.) see:

a.  Magazines for Libraries (R050.25)

b.  Ulrich’s Periodical Directory

c.  Serials Directory 

d.  Standard Periodical Directory

© Janet Tillman/The Master’s University, 2008-2014, permission is granted for non-profit educational use; any reproduction or modification should include this statement.

Last updated July, 2014


Journals/Scholarly Journals:

The main purpose is to report original research or experimentation to scholars of the world.

a.    Authors will always cite their sources and the articles will contain references/bibliographies

b.    Lengthy articles usually signed; Many will contain scientific methodology with sections like Background, Objective, Methods, Procedure, Statistics, Results, Discussion;

c.    Sober serious look; Contain graphs and charts but few glossy pages; Seldom contain advertisements

d.    Purpose is to report on original research; Topics are often very specific

e.    Author is a scholar in the field

f.     Language is that of the discipline being covered

g.    Assumes scholarly background on the part of the reader

h.    Sometimes the title itself suggests the article is scholarly; Often but not always has “journal” in the title.

i.     Often published by institutions of higher learning, professional organizations or sponsored by a government body

j.     When an assignment requires the use of scholarly journals only, confirm with the professor whether or not “journals” are as acceptable as “scholarly journals” (i.e. the professor really just wants to make sure you don’t use magazines)

© Janet Tillman/The Master’s University, 2008-2014, permission is granted for non-profit educational use; any reproduction or modification should include this statement.

Last updated July, 2014

Article Types

Article Types

Within scholarly journals you will find different types of articles. Depending on your needs, knowing these different types will help you find the resources you need for your research. These types include:

  • Literature Reviews
  • Research Articles (aka Empirical Articles)
  • Case Studies
  • Meta Analysis
  • Commentary
  • Theoretical or Conceptual, and Professional Communications
  • Book Reviews
  • Letters to the Editor

Last updated January 2024.

Peer Reviewed Journals

Peer Reviewed/Refereed journals: 

The criteria listed above for scholarly journals applies to peer reviewed and refereed journals in addition to which articles are reviewed by editors and specialists (peers) in the field before being approved for publication within the journal.

a.  The journal itself may be peer reviewed but all of the articles within it may not be, for instance an editorial or a book review would not be considered a peer reviewed article.

b.  Types of Peer Reviewing:

i.   Blind Peer Reviewed - (or Double Blind Peer Reviewed) - Articles are reviewed by external reviewers outside of the journal’s publishing company

ii. Editorial Board Peer Review - articles appearing in a journal are reviewed by an internal board of editors.

iii.  Expert Peer Review - articles are reviewed by experts credentialed within the subject field of the article under review.

c.  Many periodical indexes will have a limiting option that can be set to retrieve only articles from peer reviewed/scholarly journals (when an assignment requires peer reviewed journals only, confirm with the professor whether or not scholarly journals are as acceptable as peer reviewed journals)dc.  Some indexes will indicate scholarly/peer reviewed in the citation itself

d.  Search the publisher’s Web site for information about their review process; do a Google search on the journal title and the word “publisher” or “home”.

e.  Use a Periodical Directory to identify peer reviewed or refereed journals (see below).  If available, Ulrich's Periodical Directory Online is the easiest and fastest method.  Most libraries will have at least one periodical directory in their reference collections or online.  For peer reviewed/scholarly titles in EBSCOhost indexes go to EBSCOhost Titles List specifically Academic Search Complete and select the database and format needed.

f.  For peer reviewed/scholarly titles in ProQuest indexes go to ProQuest Research Library Titles List. From the box marked "Include", be sure “Scholarly/Peer Reviewed” is checked and from the box marked "Format", select the desired format for downloading data.

© Janet Tillman 2008-2015, permission is granted for non-profit educational use; any reproduction or modification should include this statement.

Last updated September, 2018.

Find Case Studies

To find Case Studies providing methodologies and theories of any topic, add these Keywords/Phrases:              

•“case study”
•“case reports”
•“case description”

For example: You could devise a search query like this:

>acl injury case
>su:sports injuries "case studies"
>su:postpartum depression AND kw:method*

NOTE:  Be sure to put phrases in quotation marks.

NOTE:  The asterisk (*) is a truncation symbol (meaning to cut off) commanding the search engine to look for the root word and every variation thereafter.  For instance, philos* will retrieve:  philosophy, philosopher, philosophers, philosophies, philosophical.

NOTE: "su:" is the metadata field code commanding the Discovery search engine to look only in the Subject Field of each record in the catalog. "kw:" is the metadate field command to search all keyword fields: title, author, publisher, table of contents, subjects, note, genre.

Last updated January 2024.

Verify a truly Peer Reviewed Journal

When you get your results list from a database ...

1. Select the article title


2. Then select the journal title from the record, usually labeled Source:


3. Then scan the Publication Details for the selected journal looking for the field labeled "Peer Reviewed".  It will indicate either Yes or No.  

Research Articles (empirical; scientific)

Research articles all follow a similar structure. You can identify articles of this type by looking at the sections they contain. Most scientific studies contain the following sections:

  • Header 
  • Introduction 
  • Methods 
  • Results 
  • Discussion 
  • Conclusion 
  • References 

You can use the "Methods" section to easily find them.  Here's how:

Add the keyword "method" and add an asterisk * to the end of your search query.  Like this:

handedness method*

  • The keyword "method" is a uniquely integral part of every scientific research article.  Therefore, using it as part of your search query will help to eliminate the articles that are not scientific studies. 
  • The asterisk will command the search engine to look for the root word "method" and every variation thereafter, i.e. method, methods, methodologies, methodology.
  • A keyword search is the most profitable type of search for finding articles as most articles do not have associated subject headings.  Simply typing in search terms without any field commands will cause the search engine to default to the keyword fields.

Last updated January 2024.