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Defining Scholarly Journals  

Last Updated: Sep 14, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Defining Scholarly Journals

True definitions of the term scholarly source vary from discipline to discipline and from professor to professor. Check with your professor to be certain how they view a particular title. However, a few simple guidelines can be applied to almost any journal to determine if it can be considered scholarly:

  1. Articles in scholarly journals have either footnotes or endnotes. These notes show the sources of information quoted by authors and can help verify the quality of their scholarship. Notes are useful in seeing currency of information contained in the article.
  2. Articles in scholarly journals usually have a bibliography at the end. This bibliography is a list of all sources consulted in the writing of the article. It helps to establish veracity and accurateness of information and gives the reader places to go for further information. The bibliography is one of the most important features of a scholarly source.
  3. Scholarly journals are almost always produced by a body such as the American Historical Society or the American Association of Psychologists or by a university, not by a company only for profit. Sometimes one must check the journal's "masthead" (the paragraph near the front of the journal which tells publication information) to be sure of this.
  4. In most scholarly journals the word journal will appear in the title--but not always. Most will have a title such as American Journal of Psychology; some however can be misleading, such as Organizational Dynamics. One must look closer to be certain.
  5. Many scholarly journals are refereed. This simply means that the article was given to a number of respected scholars in its particular field who then evaluate and certify the quality of the scholarship it contains. A look at the masthead can help determine if a journal is refereed.
  6. And as a simple rule of thumb: If a magazine is printed on glossy paper and has many pictures, photos, and advertisements, it probably is not scholarly!

Updated September 1, 2009


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