Peer Review & Scholarly Sources
Professors may specify that you use only scholarly sources in your work. How can you tell if a source is considered scholarly?
What is a Scholarly Source?
Scholarly sources are research articles published in scholarly journals. A research article is a report on original research, written by the researchers, with an audience of other researchers in mind. This is how experts in academic fields report their findings to one another and build knowledge based on previous research.
Research articles published in scholarly journals are peer-reviewed, or refereed.
Peer-review is a rigorous process by which articles are evaluated by a panel of experts in the field; the author’s peers. The peer-reviewers make sure that:
- the article is accurate
- the research methods are sound
- the research contributes new information to the field
- it is free of bias or conflicts of interest.
This process ensures that the article meets the highest standards for academic research.
How can I tell if a journal is scholarly?
To determine if a journal is considered scholarly, look for whether the journal:
- Is published or sponsored by a professional society or associations
- Includes a list of reviewers or editorial board members
- Describes their review process
- Look up the journal title in the Ulrichsweb Global Serials Directory, which tracks the details of journal publications, including whether they are peer-reviewed or considered scholarly.
Websites that appear to be legitimate journals, but which do not follow the peer-review process, lack rigor, or charge authors a fee to publish their work are a prevalent and growing problem in academic publishing. Cabell’s Predatory Reports maintains a list of journals that engage in predatory practices. Predatory journals are not considered scholarly sources, although some do a very good job of appearing so!
How can I find Scholarly Sources?
Find scholarly sources in research databases, but don’t assume that everything you find in a database is a scholarly source. Scholarly journals can also publish editorials, letters, and opinion pieces which are not considered scholarly.
You may also find articles from popular magazines, newspapers, trade publications, websites, corporate reports, or other resources while doing research on your topic. These types of publications:
- Are written by journalists or tradespeople
- Are intended for a broad audience
- Often do not include references to back up their claims
- Can be based on personal opinion
These may be good resources depending on your assignment, but are not considered scholarly. When in doubt, check with your professor.