Skip to Main Content

How to Read Scholarly Articles: What is Scholarly?

Here you will learn how to recognize a scholarly article, its components and strategies for reading

Popular vs. Scholarly

The assignment you have for class states that you need to use SCHOLARLY sources, mainly articles from journals.

What does Scholarly mean, though?

Before you get into the content of the article you found, let's compare the basics of Popular and Scholarly articles.


  • Shorter
  • Are written for a general audience, even when included in a discipline specific magazine (ex. Psychology Today)
  • Written by the employees of the periodical who may or may not have experience or credentials on the topic
  • Language is not technical and does not have a lot of jargon; easier to read and understand
  • Little to no actual citations, and no bibliography/works cited list
  • Contain advertisements and/or pictures
  • Come out more frequently: daily, weekly, or monthly 

Good and Bad

You look up information all the time on your phones and computers at home using Google. Knowing that there are different types of information can help you find credible sources that answer your questions. It is also important to remember the context in which you are doing your own research. The Popular vs. Scholarly comparison is not a Bad vs. Good comparison. Popular sources are not inherently "bad", and scholarly sources are not inherently "good".

Scholarly articles present peer-reviewed research about specific topics. When your assignment calls for scholarly sources, you need to know what those look like in order to complete the assignment successfully. This applies even when a grade is not on the line.

However, when doing research there are many occasions where it would be appropriate to use a "popular" or non-scholarly source. You might need background information or want to see what people's opinion are on the topic you are researching for class. Turning to a popular source like a magazine, newspaper, or reputable website (i.e. Time Magazine, The Atlantic, The New York Times, NPR, etc.) would all be good options in those cases. 




  • Longer articles, typically at least 7 pages, multiple columns on each page
  • Are written by experts in their field, for other experts
  • Authors have credentials to be considered experts, such as a PhD, MD, MA/MS. 
  • Language can be very technical, and varies based on discipline. This can make these articles difficult to understand for students and others new to the field
  • In the Sciences, scholarly articles include visual representations of data in charts, graphs, and tables
  • Include many citations and a long list of references and works cited at the end
  • Peer reviewed
    • A panel of experts reads each article submitted to a scholarly journal and provides feedback to the author(s) anonymously. The panel can accept submissions, ask for revisions, or outright reject the article. The articles included in an issue of the journal went through the whole process, including revisions and final acceptance.
    • For more information about Peer Review, watch the video from NCSU Libraries embedded below. 
  • Are published less less frequently, generally no more than four times/year