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How do I Distinguish between Scholarly (Peer-reviewed) vs. Popular Articles?: Let us Help You

Scholarly vs. Popular?

Sometimes you may not be able to immediately tell if an article is scholarly or not. This is especially true when finding articles through search engines like Google. Online articles tend to often be popular and not so often are scholarly. Watch the 3:00 minute video above for more information.

All scholarly articles share some similar characteristics. So when trying to determine if an article is scholarly, consider if the article has the following features:

  • Is written by an expert in the field (PhD, etc.)
  • The institution of where the author works will be listed
  • The article will include a bibliography
  • Is sometimes published in a publication where the word "journal" is included in the title (e.g. Journal of Medicine, The Journal of Women's Health, etc.)
  • Uses specialized or unique terms for the topic discussed.
  • Includes an abstract description, usually a paragraph, at the beginning of the article telling you what the article is about.

PLEASE NOTE: You may also see or hear the term "peer reviewed" when talking about scholarly articles. Peer review refers to a specific part of the process of getting a scholarly article published. Most (but not all) scholarly articles go through peer review.

Articles are written by experts, and the peer review process means that other experts have read that article and believe that the expert author is definitely knowledgeable in the topic being addressed.

See the videos below that talk about peer-reviewed articles.

Looking for Peer Reviewed Articles in Databases

A peer reviewed article is one that has been reviewed by other experts or scholars in the field who judge the article for quality and new contributions to the discipline. Peer-reviewed articles may also be called scholarly or refereed. The best place to start your search is in the  library database.

Strategy #1: Limit your search to only peer reviewed articles

  • Look for a checkbox, either on the search screen or the results page that limits the search to scholarly, peer reviewed articles only.
  • Search in a database that only contains scholarly or peer-reviewed articles.

Strategy #2: Find out more about the journal your article was published in

  • If you are in a database, check to see whether you can click on the journal title for more information about the journal.
  • Search Google with the title of the journal to look for an editorial policy page or a page for authors to find out if the journal uses a peer review process.

What is Peer Review - a short video

Peer review is a process that some scholarly articles undergo. Not all scholarly articles are peer reviewed. All peer-reviewed articles are part of the scholarly literature.

Scholarly articles are articles written by and for academics and experts in a specific discipline or area of academic study.

Peer reviewed articles have been reviewed prior to publication by other experts in the subject area of the article.

Very often the terms "scholarly" and "peer reviewed" are used interchangeably.

How Peer-Review Process Works in 3 Minutes

This video is published under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SA US license. License, credits, and contact information can be found here:


Director of Libraries