AMES 105 Social Inequality and Change in American Sports

How To Identify Scholarly Sources

Understanding Scholarly Journals

The parts of the articles, as well as images showing what these parts may look like, are outlined below.
  1. Scholarly journals are often referred to as Academic Journals, Peer-Reviewed Journals, and Research Journals
  2. Purpose: Scholarly journals are educational and serve to share information and original research between scholars in particular academic disciplines

(click on image to enlarge)this is an image of 4 covers of journal articles, showing how specific their contents are and how complex their titles. Text included in the image are listed in item 1 and 2

  1. Subject Matter: Articles contain very specific and specialized information. Usually articles are reports of research on narrow and subtle aspects of a particular field of study
  2. Language: Language is appropriate for scholarly dialog; articles often contain context terminology, jargon, or mathematical formulas used in a particular field of study

 (click on image to enlarge)this image is a screenshot of a journal article, pointing out the complex language in the article and includes the text in points 3 and 4

  1. Format: Articles have abstracts that summarize the content of the article. Articles are often long and complex, typically with standardized sections such as Introduction, Literature Review,  Methods, Results, Conclusion, and Discussion 
  2. Graphics: Journals are mostly text-based and often look "plain" with few photos or graphics. Graphics and charts often illustrate research results or statistics

​(click on image to enlarge)this image shows a screenshot of the results section and includes the text in points 5 and 6

  1. Bibliography: All sources are cited in a bibliography
  2. Authors: Authors are academic researchers or specialists in their field whose articles have passed scrutiny and review by peers/fellow specialists in their field; author affiliations (title, degree, academic position held) are usually mentioned in the article

(click on image to enlarge)

This is a screenshot of a journal article pointing out the citations and author section and includes the text from points 7 and 8

  1. Publishers: Journals are usually published by educational institutions, professional organizations, or non-profits

Understanding Scholarly Books

A scholarly book will: 
  • be written by an expert or experts in the field (PH.D., M.D., etc preferred)
  • usually present new research or analysis of previous research
  • often be printed by a University Press
  • not be written for popular audiences
  • include extensive references to other scholarly work
Other Signs to Spot a Scholarly Book:
  • Read the record for the author and publisher. Are the credentials academic (an university press, a professor as an author)?
  • Are the language and subject matter of an academic nature?
  • Are there In-text citations?
  • Is there a thorough and exhaustive (long) reference list? 

(click on images to enlarge)

book cover for "Urban Cities"

Here we can see the cover of the book, the title and the author. 

Within the first page of the book, you should expect to see information about the author. In the image below, you can see a small section that explains who the author is. 

The author bio establishes the author's expertise in her field. By reading this biography section on her, we can see that she has a PhD, and has researched, worked and written in her field since 1990.

image of a small paragraph which includes information about the author and her credentials and academic affilations

This image below shows a part of the text from one of the pages. Notice the presence of in-text citations. All claims are thoroughly sourced and backed up. Note too the academic tone and language of the text.

(click on image to enlarge)
image of the text of the book 

Finally, you should expect to see references - multiple pages of citations that give credit to the sources the author used during the research for the book. The image below is just that, showing that this larger work is thoroughly referenced. This is page 1 of 15 pages of references.

(click on image to enlarge)

image of the references page, showing the sources and citations the author used

Source: "Peer Review in 3 Minutes" by libncsu, is licensed under a Standard YouTube License.

Learn how the peer review process works and why it is so rigorous.

Understanding the Peer-Review Process

In academic publishing, the goal of peer review is to assess the quality of articles submitted for publication in a scholarly journal. Before an article is deemed appropriate to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, it must undergo the following process


  • The author of the article must submit it to the journal editor who forwards the article to experts in the field. Because the reviewers specialize in the same scholarly area as the author, they are considered the author’s peers (hence “peer review”).
  • These impartial reviewers are charged with carefully evaluating the quality of the submitted manuscript.
  • The peer reviewers check the manuscript for accuracy and assess the validity of the research methodology and procedures.
  • If appropriate, they suggest revisions. If they find the article lacking in scholarly validity and rigor, they reject it.

Because a peer-reviewed journal will not publish articles that fail to meet the standards established for a given discipline, peer-reviewed articles that are accepted for publication exemplify the best research practices in a field.

Attribution: Much of the information in these boxes about the peer-review process was used with permission from the awesome librarians at the Lloyd Sealy Library at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Identifying Common Elements in a Journal Article

Look through the images and notes below to learn more about the various parts common to a scholarly article

The Citation information: Authors, Article title, Journal information and Abstract
  • As shown in the image below, much of the citation information about the article appears on the first page. Here we see the title of journal, page numbers, and the publication date.
  • Multiple authors are common in search and they usually include academic affiliations that are listed just near the authors' names, as shown in this image, or as a footnote at the bottom of the page. 
  • Also on the first page, you can often see the abstract to the article, which is common.

(click on image to enlarge)

Image of the first page of a journal, showing the titles, publication info, the abstract. Text added to the image is found in the text before this image.

In-Text Citations
  • As show in the image of the article text below, you can see that in-text citations are common. This article also shows the contact information for the main author. 

(click on image to enlarge)

image of the text of a journal article, pointing to the in-text citations and use of foot notes. Also shows the common location for contact information for the original author.

The Methodology or Experiment
  • Common to these articles is a section where their research process is explained.
  • This method or experiment section lays out the process by which the researchers conducted their project. This section will provide all the details for replicating an experiment such as materials used, equations, etc.

(click on image to enlarge)

image of the article text, showing the methods and experiments section. Text from image appears in list before this image.

The Results and Discussion
  • You should always expect to see a results and discussion section at the end of the article
  • These sections can be presented separately or under one heading. Results give jus the facts of the experiment without any interpretation.

(click on image to enlarge)

image shows the results and discussion sections of the article - text in the image is written in the section above.

Data - Tables and Charts
  • Throughout the article you may see charts, tables, graphs or diagrams depicting the data collected through the study.

(click on image to enlarge)

image of some charts and graphs that appear within the article. The notes in the image are written out in the text above.

The References
  • One of the easier ways to tell a scholarly source are the list of citations you'll see. Academic literature always includes a reference list. Citations give credit to the source of information and show that research is based on a solid foundation. 

(click on image to enlarge)

image of the reference page. Notes within the image are written in the text above the image.


Newspapers, Magazines, Trade Journals and General Websites are NOT scholarly articles


Book reviews and opinion editorials are NOT scholarly articles

(Click on image to enlarge)

(Description of the linked article Tell this Silence: Asian American Women Writers and the Politics of Speech) 1.	Tell this Silence is the name of a published book written by Patti Duncan 2.	Deborah M. Mix wrote a review (like an opinion piece) about this book 3.	She got that review published in the scholarly journal Modern Fiction Studies. 4.	Even though Deborah’s review article is published in a scholarly journal…the article itself is NOT considered a scholarly journal, since it is simply a review based on someone’s opinion

The image above shows a book review and outlines important aspects or parts that can help you evaluate the source

  1. The title of the book being reviewed in this article is called "Tell This Silence: Asian American Women Writers and the Politics of Speech" and it is written by Patti Duncan. The name, ISBN, cost of the book, and other info to help you find the book is listed before the start of the article's text. 
  2. The author is listed as Deborah M. Mix - she wrote the review (like an opinion piece) about the book "Tell This Silence: Asian American Women Writers and the Politics of Speech"
  3. She got the review published in the scholarly journal called "Modern Fiction Studies"
  4. Even though Deborah's article is published in a scholarly journal the article itself is not considered a scholarly journal article, since it is simply a review based on someone's opinion. It differs greatly from the research-centered articles that are also housed in the journal.


Below, you can click on the link to access the full article where you can see the original PDF of the article as it appeared in print inside the journal.

Video Tutorial - How to Identify, Find, Use and Cite Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journal Articles