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University of Portland Clark Library

Identifying, Finding & Reading Scholarly Sources: Identifying

Is this Article Scholarly?

How do you know if you've found a scholarly article?

If you find an article through a web search, you need to determine if it is scholarly. Even if you find an article in a database, you may not be looking at a scholarly article as some databases index many types of publications. Use this list to help you distinguish between scholarly and popular publications.

Abstract: The first section of a scholarly article, right after the title and author info, is an abstract, which is a summary of the article including a brief description of methods and results.

Article Title: If the title of the article is short and catchy, it may be a popular article. Many titles of scholarly articles are long and precise.

Appearance: Popular magazines, may have many photographs and advertisements. Scholarly journals will be mostly text with graph and charts and few ads.

Authors: Is there no author listed? Is the author a staff writer? Then it is not a scholarly article. Scholarly articles are written by practitioners, theorists, and educators.

Publisher: Popular articles often have commercial publishers. Scholarly articles are usually published by educational institutions and professional organizations.

Article Length: Scholarly articles are generally longer than popular articles.

Reference List: The clearest and most reliable indicator of a scholarly article is the presence of references or citations. Look for a list of works cited and/or numbered footnotes or endnotes. Citations are not merely a check against plagiarism. They set the article in the context of a scholarly discussion and provide useful suggestions for further research.

Audience: Who is this article written for? If it seems to be for the general public then it’s probably not scholarly. But if it seems like the intended audience is professional and researchers, it may be scholarly.

Is this Article Qualitative or Quantitative?

  • The researcher deals with the data in the form of words
  • The researcher is the data gathering instrument.
  • Methods such as focus groups or interviews may be used.
  • Subject / Abstract terms: Qualitative Studies; Interviews; Content Analysis; Questionnaires; Focus Groups; Grounded Theory; Ethnography
  • The researcher deals with the data in the form of numbers and statistics.
  • The researcher uses tools, such as questionnaires or equipment to collect numerical data.
  • Subject / Abstract terms: Coefficient; Statistics; Multiple Regression; Two-Tailed Test; ANOVA

Recognizing a Research Article

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