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What is a Scholarly Journal? How Do I Find Scholarly Journal Articles?: Home

A guide describing scholarly journals and using tools to locate scholarly journal articles.

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Peer Review in 3 Minutes

Peer Review in Three Minutes (tutorial video) was produced by NCSU Libraries.

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Comparing Scholarly Journals with Magazines

Articles from scholarly journals, also called peer-reviewed, academic, refereed, or professional journals, are often required or strongly recommended by faculty at the university level for use in writing research papers and projects. This is especially true for upper division courses and is essential in quality graduate work. These are some characteristics that distinguish scholarly journals from other periodicals:

News, Opinion, or Popular
Journalist, freelance writer, editorial staff; might not be named Staff writers, freelance authors Researcher or scholar in the field; credentials listed
General public Specific industry, trade, organization, or profession; jargon often used Other scholars, professionals, or students familiar with the field
What is the purpose of the publication?
To inform or entertain To describe issues, problems, or trends in the field To report original research, experiments, or theories
Are sources cited?
Sources may be cited or identified, but usually not Sometimes, usually not Always have footnotes or bibliography
Who publishes it?
Commercial enterprise or an interest organization Commercial enterprise, trade association Professional association or commercial enterprise
Appearance in print?
  • May have glossy pages
  • may have colorful photos and images
  • lots of advertising
  • Cover depicts industrial setting
  • glossy paper
  • pictures and illustrations in color
  • advertising related to the field
  • each issue starts with page 1
  • Somber, serious
  • may have charts, graphs, equations
  • limited advertising
  • little or no color
Popular: Hispanic, Jet, People;
News or general interest: Nation, Newsweek, Time
Advertising Age, Progressive Grocer Harvard Educational Review, Journal of Marriage and Family, Social Science Quarterly, Theological Studies

Research articles written for scholarly journals are heavily reviewed and revised before being accepted for publication. Guidelines for contributors are usually listed somewhere in the publication. Articles are often anonymously reviewed by several other subject experts; this process is called "peer review" and such a periodical is considered a "refereed journal."  Many of our scholarly (peer reviewed) journal articles are searchable through our Discover system.