You are probably going to get asked to find "scholarly" or "academic" for some assignments. This is referring to a particular type of source. What does that mean, how can you find them, and why does it matter?
You likely will be asked to find articles for some of your research. Articles are usually published in periodicals. A periodical is any publication that comes out regularly or occasionally (periodically). Sports Illustrated, The Journal of Anthropological Research, The Commercial Appeal, and the phone book are a few examples of periodicals. Different types of periodicals have different audiences and provide different levels of information.
It's important to understand the differences between the audiences for academic journals and popular periodicals and how that affects your research. Magazines and other popular periodicals can be very high quality, but they are written for a general audience's level of knowledge and don't provide information that a general audience wouldn't have the knowledge to understand. That could be fine for lower-level classes, but they aren't designed to support most upper-level academic research. Academic journals are designed for specialist researchers and will have more details and complex information, which makes them more useful for advanced research.
Books can also be divided into "scholarly or academic" and "popular." There are a few easy ways to tell if a book is scholarly or not.
So your professor told you to find a "scholarly article." Maybe they said an "academic article," a "journal article" or a "peer-reviewed article." Here are a couple ways to figure out if what you found meets that criteria.
In most scholarly subjects, an article must go through a peer review process before it is published. Peer review, sometimes called "refereeing," is a quality control process where other experts on a topic review and make suggested changes to an article before it can be published. Read our FAQ for identifying if a journal is peer reviewed.
This video goes into more detail about the peer review process.
There are common elements to many scholarly articles, especially those in the natural and social sciences. Here's how to identify those elements.
When you do a search in an academic database, your results will look something like this. This is called the item record. There are a lot of things to notice here, but the real question is -- is the article you've found scholarly? There are a couple of clues to help you find out.
You'll see some of the elements of the beginning of a scholarly article in the record, including
After looking at the record, you should open the article. Then you can look for all the sections of a scholarly article listed above!
In most library databases, every result will be classified by a source type, such as academic articles, magazines, newspapers, etc. They will also let you limit your results by these source types, allowing you to get only scholarly articles in your results.
Often in the results there will be a tool for limiting your source types, like the EBSCO "Filter by Format" option, will help you identify different kinds of sources more easily. You can refine by academic journals here, which should narrow down by scholarly, or peer-reviewed articles available in this database.