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Research: Using Periodicals for Research

Scholarly Articles

Scholarly Articles

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?

  • Authors of the articles are scholars, researchers and experts within the field. Their credentials will be given.
  • The articles are typically quite long, usually 8 pages or more.
  • Technical language or jargon is used.
  • Articles are typically "peer-reviewed" meaning a group of other experts in the field reviewed the article before publication.

Use the acronym IMRaD to remember the major sections found in a scholarly article:

  • An abstract summarizing the research and findings
  • An Introduction stating the problem
  • Methods section that describing how the problem was studied
  • Results section reporting the findings, And
  • Discussion explaining the implications of the findings
  • A list of cited works or bibliography

Scholarly Journal Sources

How to read a scholarly article

Recognize the structure of scholarly articles in order to use them most effectively in your research projects.

Scholarly vs. Popular Articles

Popular Articles (Magazines, newspapers) 

  • Are typically written by paid journalists or professional writers for a general audience
  • Use language easily understood by general readers
  • Typically, reports on someone else's original research and/or contains personal narrative or opinions
  • Rarely give full citations for sources
  • Tend to be shorter than journal articles
  • Contain lots of advertisements
  • Typically, contains many photos
  • No standard format/structure for the articles
  • Edited for formatting and style (organization, punctuation, grammar, message, etc.)
  • Rarely any citations

Examples of Popular Magazines:

Business Week cover Time cover
US New & World Report cover Astronomy cover


Scholarly Articles (Journals) 

  • Are written by and for faculty, researchers or scholars (chemists, historians, doctors, artists, etc.).
  • The author's credentials are listed, for example:  
    • "Robert Chaires is assistant professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Nevada, Reno; JD, University of Denver; PhD, University of Colorado at Denver; former police officer, Denver Police Department."
    • "Law Clerk to Hon. Stephen Reinhardt, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Yale Law School, J.D. 2010; Oxford University, D.Phil. 2007; Harvard College, A.B. 2004".
  • Use scholarly or technical language
  • Tend to be longer articles presenting research (research based on other publications and/or studies)
  • Follow a strict structure. Depending on the field of research, articles will at least include an abstract, literature review, conclusion, and bibliography. Studies will also include goals and objectives, methodology, results (evidence), and discussion.
  • Include an extensive list of full citations for sources 
  • Are often refereed or peer reviewed (articles are reviewed by an editor and other specialists before being accepted for publication) for content, i.e. do the arguments hold up? Is the data presented of good quality? etc.
  • Book reviews and editorials are not considered scholarly articles, even when found in scholarly journals
  • Typically, do not contain advertisements

Examples of Scholarly Journals:

American Journal of Political Science cover Business History Review cover
Child Development cover The Classical Review cover

Trade Magazine/Journal

  • Written by and for professionals in a particular field
  • Uses jargon of the field, but the language is not as technical as in scholarly journals
  • Typically include photographs and advertisements
  • Tend to focus on evidence based on personal experience and knowledge
  • Edited for formatting and style (organization, punctuation, grammar, message, etc.)
  • Typically no standard format/structure for the articles
  • May include a short bibliography

What type of article should you seek?

Selecting sources requires some critical thinking and evaluation of sources. Think about who the author is, what they know about the topic? Have they included many citations? Does the information seem too simplistic or is there higher level analysis? Are they biased in any way? Remember: scholarly/academic journal articles will always be more credible and authoritative than popular articles. 

Popular articles are useful for...

  • Background information on a topic
  • Information about popular culture
  • Information about very recent events that may not be covered yet in academic/scholarly journals or books
  • Evidence of opinions
    • From Yale University Libraries: "almost any source can be used as evidence that someone believes the idea you quote. Although that may seem self-evident, such evidence can be surprisingly helpful when developing an argument, especially for articulating the research problem of your essay. If the Harvard Crimson publishes a negative article about Yale’s football team, you probably can’t trust that it’s an unbiased assessment. But such an article can still be cited as evidence that “some people have negative opinions about Yale football.” It can also be cited as evidence that “Football matters enough at some Ivy schools to merit coverage in the campus newspaper.” If you compare it to other articles in the issue that describe cross-campus cooperation, then the football article might be used to suggest “Feelings are divided at Harvard about its rivalry with Yale.” In the sciences and social sciences, you might discuss popular, non-expert representations of a key issue, explaining where they go astray—and therefore why your paper is necessary."

Scholarly/Academic Journal articles are useful for...

  • Facts and ideas, i.e. providing evidence for your paper's arguments
  • Writing papers in your major where the audience has more specialized knowledge of the subject

* adapted from Indiana University Libguides

Article Format

Depending on the database you are using, articles may be displayed in different formats:

  • Index: Includes only the article citation (i.e., author, title, date, etc.). Neither a summary, nor the full-text of the article are available.
  • Abstract: Includes the citation and a summary of the article's content. It does not include the full-text article.
  • Full-text: Includes the citation and full-text article. This may be in HTML, .pdf, or both formats.

Research Minutes: How to Identify Substantive News Articles

Segment discusses how to recognize and find substantive news articles: news about politics, economics, the sciences, the arts, and other topics of current