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University of Portland Clark Library

Identifying, Finding & Reading Scholarly Sources: What is a Scholarly Article?

What is a Scholarly Article?

A scholarly article introduces new knowledge based on original research or experimentation. Many scholarly articles undergo a process called peer review. In this process, experts in the field scrutinize articles before they are published, resulting in a body of quality scholarly information. This guide will teach you to identify and read scholarly articles like a scholar!

What is a Scholarly Article?

This short video from Cornell University provides a nice introduction to identifying a scholarly article. 

Another short video, this time from Lincoln Memorial University, that explains the difference between popular and scholarly sources.

Primary or Secondary?

Both primary and secondary sources can be useful to you in your research, but you need to be able to distinguish which is which. Both types of information sources can be found using library databases, and both may even be peer-reviewed sources. So how do you tell which is which? Refer to the table below for some quick ways to determine if the source you've found is a primary source or a secondary source.

Primary Sources

  • Describe original research, or original analysis of someone else's data
  • Articles and papers by the researcher(s) presenting data and research findings
  • Describe methodology and findings
  • Terminology: Often scientific terminology and jargon; authors assume familiarity with the subject

Secondary Sources

  • Discuss research done by others
  • News, magazine articles, books, and review articles explaining, analyzing, or commenting on research
  • Published AFTER primary sources (“second”)
  • Terminology: May use less jargon and/or assume less familiarity with subject

What is Peer Review?

What's a DOI?

DOI = Digital Object Identifier

This is a unique alphanumeric identifier assigned to some journal articles. It's becoming more common for journal articles in the sciences and social sciences. If you find a journal article that has as DOI, include that in an MLA 8th edition citation.

MLA, 8th edition example for an article found through a library database:

Cardanay, Audrey Berger. “Illustrating Motion, Music, and Story.” General Music Today, vol. 29, no. 3, 2016, pp. 25-29. Academic Search Premier, doi:10.1177/1048371315626498. 

No DOI? No sweat! Just cite it without a DOI. If it is an article you retrieved through a library database, you can include a permalink instead.

Cardanay, Audrey Berger. “Illustrating Motion, Music, and Story.” General Music Today, vol. 29, no. 3, 2016, pp. 25-29. Academic Search Premier, | 503.943.7111 or 800.841.8261 | 5000 N. Willamette Blvd., Portland, OR 97203-5798
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